Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not Always Just One Way to Cite a Source

Across the country, college students are studying like mad in preparation for their final exams and projects.  Libraries become deathly quiet as students concentrate more intensely than ever.  Well, occasional study groups raise the noise level a bit.  Fortunately, many libraries and student unions have study rooms that can be reserved for one or more hours.  Students are also writing their last papers of the semester, and more time may be spent on that works cited or references list than at any other time of the semester.

"Final Exams."  See Mr. Longoria's Earth Science.

As I was creating my last rubric for the ACAD 1199: Information Research course, I needed to find out how an annotated bibliography is formatted in MLA format.  The index in the book directed me to 5.3.1 or page 129 in the 7th edition, so I started reading this section titled "The List of Works Cited: Introduction."  A lengthy paragraph ensues.  A litle more than half way through the paragraph this observation is made:
While it is tempting to think that every source has only one complete and correct format for its entry in a list of works cited, in truth there are often several options for recording key features of a work. For this reason, software programs that generate entries are not likely to be useful. You may need to improvise when the type of scholarly project or the publication medium of a source is not anticipated by this handbook. Be consistent in your formatting throughout your work. Choose that format that is appropriate to your research paper and that will satisfy your reader's needs. 129 (Emphasis added.)
§MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed.  New York: Modern Language Association, 2009. Print.  See pages 129-30.
Does this shatter your confidence in citation styles?  It seems like a valid disclaimer and a recognition that there are many things out there that can be cited--too many to keep track of in a handy manual.

Purdue's OWL includes a similar note regarding the APA style:
Please note: While the APA manual provides many examples of how to cite common types of sources, it does not provide rules on how to cite all types of sources. Therefore, if you have a source that APA does not include, APA suggests that you find the example that is most similar to your source and use that format. For more information, see page 193 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, sixth edition.
Oh, in case you were wondering, an annotated bibliography in the MLA style should have one of the two titles listed below:
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/.
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Annotated Bibliography of Works Cited
See page 130 in the 7th edition, or 5.3.1.  They provide a concise definition as well: "An annotated bibliography, also called Annotated Bibliography of Works Cited, contains descriptive or evaluative comments on the sources.  (For more information on such listings, see James L. Harner, On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography [2nd Ed.; New York: MLA, 2000; print])" (130).

"Final Exam."  See Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call.

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