Names will never hurt me (perhaps)

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I am halfway through my next article but just had to come back to the theme of my last few posts, confusing terminology.

A post today on Int’l School Library Connection, a FaceBook group, asked whether and how IB MYP students writing their Personal Projects can include sources they have read but have not cited in their Projects.

Yes they can, and the advice is to include both a list of Works Cited (which includes a list of all the works cited in the text) and a separate Bibliography (comprising a list of all works used to inform the project).

In the course of the conversation, I looked up the MYP Projects Guide (March 2018 edition) which makes a very clear distinction. In the Glossary (page 61), we see:

Bibliography: An alphabetical list of every source used to research the project.

List of references: An alphabetical list of only those sources that are cited in the presentation or report.

That strikes me as simple, easy to follow, easy to distinguish between the two kinds of list.

So why, I ask myself, is the definition used in the Extended Essay Guide so difficult – and saying (perhaps) the almost exact opposite?

We read:

A bibliography is an alphabetical list of every source used to research and write the essay.

and we read:

The bibliography must list only those sources cited.

And in between those two directly contradictory statements is the advice:

Sources that are not cited in the body of the essay but were important in informing the approach taken should be cited in the introduction or in an acknowledgment.

For IB MYP students, a bibliography includes all sources, whether cited or not.
For IB DP students, a bibliography includes only the sources which are cited in the text.

It is as confusing as the advice in the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed) which, as I noted in my last post Bibliographical footnote, uses the term “Bibliography” to refer both to a list which includes only the works cited in the text (on the one hand) and also a list which includes works cited in the text and also works which have been used but have not been cited in the text (on the other hand) (CMOS17, section 14.64, note 1).

APA6 is almost as confusing in that it advises writers to:

Choose references judiciously and include only the sources that you used in the research and preparation of the article. APA journals and other journals using APA style generally require reference lists, not bibliographies … Because a reference list includes only references that document the article and provide recoverable data, do not include in the list personal communications, such as letters, memoranda, and informal electronic communications. Instead, cite personal communications only in the text (page 180).

This appears first to suggest that all materials used in the research are included in the list of References but then says that the reference list is not a bibliography – which a footnote tells us “cites works for background or for further reading” whereas the reference list “cites works that specifically support a particular article.”

APA’s preference for non-retrievable data to be cited in the text but not included in the list of references may be sensible for readers of journals published by the American Psychological Association (APA) but should be disregarded by writers of IB assessments; IB wants that

citation <<< >>> reference

linkage (and failure to comply could lead to loss of marks and/or referral to the Awards Committee as a case of potential academic misconduct).

For sanity’s sake, my sanity, MLA8 makes clear distinction, worth adapting and/or adopting:

The list titled “Works Cited” identifies the sources you borrow from – and therefore cite – in the body of your research project. Works that you consult during your research but do not borrow from are not included (if you want to document them as well and your instructor approves their inclusion, give the list a broader title such as “Works Consulted”) (page 20).

What all this adds up to (for those in IB schools) is that

1: we must be very clear in our use of these terms – don’t assume that our students have the same understanding that we do;

2: when IB requirements contradict the suggestions in style guides, we should ignore the style guide and give IB what IB is looking for.



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