Sunday, September 05, 2010

Dear MLA and APA

Two questions.
  1. How often (not counting grad school) have you actually followed a written citation, found the source material, and then read it?

    Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition. New York: Modern Language Association, 2007. Print.

  2. How often have you clicked on a link to learn more?


    1. I may be in the minority, but I dig up citations and read pretty regularly when planning for class, almost always to Google the title to find the article or book. If that fails, I rarely go and dig the source up.

      While I've modified my practice for some student work, I still sometimes require MLA style citations. This conversation and my frustration with having to use APA style for an article I'm writing have me reconsidering that requirement.

      Are there any times you think APA, MLA, or CMS makes sense to require?


    2. Meredith - I think you probably are in the minority but, again, look at how you find the work. It's not as a result of the citation being in a particular format, it's just because it gave you enough information to Google it (and if someone accidentally used a comma and not a period, it probably didn't prevent you from finding it).

      So, I think citations are good. But I also think they need to change to reflect how folks are actually going to find the original work. Would anyone argue that a simple link to Amazon is more effective if you're trying to find a book than an MLA citation?

    3. Hold on. I'm going to link to this post to drive some traffic your way. Do you think MLA and APA will notice?

    4. I dig up citations often, but I've been terminally socialized by earning a terminal degree. I know where (and how) to find the things that still aren't completely public domain (JSTOR, NCTE journals on-line). And I still keep track of the things I read in bibliographic format - but I use Zotero for it. Sometimes. The last article I read, I wrote out an index card with an MLA-style citation on the top . . .

    5. I check citations regularly. I like to get as close to the original source as possible. Though I am not a stickler for every comma and period. I believe we have become lazy in our reading and need to question more closely what we read. We tend to easily pass on information (links) with out truly digesting what we share.

      I think the type of citation depends on the final format of the intended product. On the web, then a link is fine. Print material then a more completed citation is required.

    6. Alexis - For things that aren't linkable, then we definitely need some way to reference them. That's why I said if the citation (link) gets you to the source.

      But I think educators spend most of their time correcting students formatting on the citation instead of helping them understand. I could be wrong, but everyone here who is defending citations seems to be referring to research journals. I was really asking how many times have you followed one of your student's citations?

      As far as those things that aren't available to the public, how much longer are they going to be relevant if they don't begin to make their stuff accessible?

    7. Matt - Somehow, I don't think MLA and APA are likely to shift course based on this post.

    8. Beth - Similar to my comment to Alexis, I'm curious how often you follow the citations in your students' work?

      Can't print also include a link? Admittedly, it's not as functional as when it's online, but it still works. And I think that just points out the inherent limitations of the print medium, which is why I believe that anyone who truly wants to help others with their work should be putting it online and making it accessible.

    9. Karl - maybe you saw this - but Kevin Washburn just posted

      i love that we're pushing ourselves into relevance.

      as always - thanks for the great post.

    10. A very clever and amusing post. Wow.

    11. Axe yoully, sum office due car furry mulch abowt add here ants to standerz thut othurz downt seam two on to pholo. (Apologies to Richard Lederer)

    12. I think that if you are writing with the purpose of posting your work online, then linking your resources is much more effective and relevant than providing a list of resources in APA or MLA format.
      From a teaching perspective, why should we be spending time correcting format? Shouldn't we be more interested in content? After all Google just spent millions of dollars to shave seconds off of their search results. Linking resources would save teachers a lot more time than that!

    13. Hi. I'm behind in blog reading, so I just came across this. I also just came across a posting on APA's blog which addresses this:

      It points out that APA isn't designed for us--it's designed for publication in scholarly journals. Especially at the high school level, that's a different concern. As a reference librarian, I always tell students that this is how I would interpret the citation rules, but the ultimate judge is the instructor--you're the one with the power to make exceptions, not me. To me, that means you have a lot of leeway in how you choose to have your students apply APA or MLA.

    14. I find this post interesting in the sense that it challenges the value of "educational research - practicing educator" nexus. Are we, as educators, utilizing research-based ideas, challenging our own thinking, and considering alternatives, or do we stick with evidence that is anecdotal?

      On the second point of format, I offer the following thoughts:

      APA format for websites has a lot to offer us (and students) in terms of evaluating quality and validity. It also is much simpler than the MLA format. If we (or students) only provide a web address are we evaluating the source? (a.k.a. what organization or individual authored the content) Are we evaluating how recent the content was written? (e.g., providing a date of posting). Aren't these important factors in information literacy? If we scaffold the learning for students by providing them with a well-established format which requires them to not only read the content, but evaluate it, I think we provide them with better learning strategies.

      Frank LaBanca In Search of Scientific Creativity

    15. I agree Karl. I feel that more than anyone else, those in the Ivory tower value MLA, APA. And to hear of students being given ZEROES on major term papers not b/c of an intent to plagiarize but b/c of improper citations just seems silly. And while my 8 years of Grad school gives me an appreciation for the discipline of research and how it helps to form and shape disciplined thinking, perhaps there is a win/win in the citation war that will make academia feel less polarizing to the mass of modern students.