Yes and No – footnotes

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A question that comes up regularly in the forums is, “We use MLA; can we use this style with footnotes?”

I think there are two answers to this. The first is “No, you can’t.” The second is, “Yes you can.”

Before I explain my thinking, I will just add that the reason most frequently given for wanting to use MLA and footnotes is “the word count.” If the citation is in a footnote and footnotes aren’t counted in the word count, then the rationale is that using footnotes will save words. This could be crucial in, for instance, an IB Extended Essay.

Q:  Can we use MLA style and footnotes?
A:  No, you can’t.

MLA, the student-level style guide of the Modern Language Association as published in the MLA Handbook, recommended the use of footnotes in the 1st edition, published in 1977;  in the 2nd edition, published in 1984, MLA stated a preference for citation in the text. (This piece of history is gleaned from page xi of the 8th edition, published in 2016.)

The 6th edition (2003) noted that some disciplines using MLA still used “endnotes or footnotes to document sources,” and gave a few examples in an appendix (298 ff). The only recommendation regarding footnotes in the 7th edition (2009) was that Continue reading

Exceptions

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The general rules are clear: “if it’s not yours, you cite it” and “if you’re not sure whether or not to cite it, cite it.”

Most, but not all, documentation style guides include the rule, “if you cite it in the text, then you must reference it (usually at the end of the article, paper, chapter, book), and if you have a reference (at the end), then you need a citation in the text.” Put simply:

citation <> reference <> citation

There are exceptions to every rule, and documentation is no exception Continue reading

Imagine… (another flawed study)

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The problem with plagiarism, as with any activity that those who indulge prefer to keep secret, is that we don’t know how prevalent it is, so we can’t say how effective are the measures we take to prevent or detect occurrences, or whether what we do really does make a difference.

Turnitin, probably the most well-known of the various online text-matching services (aka plagiarism checkers or plagiarism detectors), tries – possibly needs – to have it both ways.  They try to show that more and more students at all levels of education are plagiarising, so schools need to buy their detection services, and they also try to show that schools which use their services have reduced levels of plagiarism. Continue reading

Thirty percent

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I use the Google Alert feature to be made aware of new web pages which include terms I regularly search for. It saves me having to remember to repeat my favourite searches, and it pinpoints new or changed pages.

I thought the feature had gone berserk the other day. My alert for “every written assignment they complete” usually gives me just one or two hits a week.  This week’s digest gave me forty hits. Continue reading

To link or not to link?

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Mathew Ingram raises an interesting question in his paidContent blog: is linking to a post or page from which one is quoting sufficient to avoid charges of plagiarism, or is more needed by way of attribution?

What makes the question even more interesting is that it is based on an article recently posted in The Atlantic.  It seems that the links in the original story were lost Continue reading