I often see a similar set of issues related to proper citation… some of them are quite understandable, while others perplex me in their consistency. When I cite myself, below, it’s not ego; it’s to demonstrate how I would typically expect to see a citation or reference appear. And the references are fictional.
- Every in-text idea that isn’t yours must be cited. Failure to do so is theft of intellectual property, typically known as plagiarism.
- Every in-text idea that’s taken directly from source material must be “wrapped in quotation marks and cited” (Doane, 2023).
- If a quotation comes from a paged document (PDF, book, etc.), then “the quoted in-text citation should include a page number” (Doane, 2023 p.45).
- In APA style, the punctuation for the sentence being cited goes AFTER the citation (Doane, 2023).
- not punctuated like this. (Doane, 2023).
- The label used in the in-text citation (Doane, 2023) must match the beginning of the alphabetized entry in the References section.
- Doane, W. E. J. (2023). How to Cite to Ensure a Chain of Evidence to Support Your Claims. Penguin Press. (nb: this is fictional)
- Every in-text citation must lead directly to an entry in your References section.
Your References Section
- Every entry in your References section must match an in-text citation.
- The References section must be arranged in alphabetical order by first author’s last name (or source, if no author).
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (2020). Catching Cybercriminals. Accessed 10 June 2023. https://dhs.gov/catching+ptas
- Doane, W.E.J. (2023). Comments on Citations. Springer.
- Doane, W.E.J. (21 January 2018). Why Cite Your Sources When Writing. Accessed 7 June 2023. https://DrDoane.com/why-cite-your-sources-when-writing/
- Multiple references from the same author in the same year may need an added letter designation: (Doane, 2023a) for example, with the letter also added to the reference entries to help your reader disambiguate.
- Doane, W. E. J. (2023a). How to Cite to Ensure a Chain of Evidence to Support Your Claims. Penguin Press. (nb: this is fictional)
- Doane, W. E. J. (2023b). More Tips on How to Cite. Saratoga Press. (nb: this is fictional)
- Institutional authors should be spelled out (unless it’s a very common abbreviation: IBM, NASA, etc.).
- Never list institutional authors as if they were first and last names:
- BAD: “Machines, I.B.”
- GOOD: “IBM” or “International Business Machines”
- Check how to cite an organization as the author in your citation manager of choice.
- URLs should be minimal and reachable by your reader. Test their reachability using a different web browser.
- Any referenced URLs should be reachable by a non-privileged user—someone who isn’t logged in. So, prefer links to sources that aren’t behind paywalls or behind required logins.
- Beware of loooooooong URLs that seem to contain session IDs or other metadata that was specific to YOUR session visiting the page. Try to trim your URLs to the essentials, then test that they’re reachable. For example, these are the same URL… but the first has cruft specific to my visit to the Amazon website.
- Prefer authoritative sources over secondary sources. If you’re referencing a NIST publication, link to the NIST.gov website address for it, not to a university class blog file or to a web article that links to it.
- BAD (or at least not best evidence): https://www.wbdg.org/files/pdfs/NIST_SP800_171.pdf
- GOOD: https://csrc.nist.gov/publications/detail/sp/800-171/rev-2/final
Purpose and Reasoning
- The purpose of citing is to draw a map for your reader from the material in the body of your document, to a reference, to the original source.
- If you claim that the U.S. National Debt is only $31 dollars, then I need to know where you got that information, so that I can fact check you and point out that you left off “trillion”. (See https://www.usdebtclock.org/)
- Your job as a writer is to make it as easy as possible for your reader to believe and be persuaded by your writing.
- As such, accurate attribution and guiding your reader to the source material you rely upon for your claims is vital to the writing process.
As an analogy to Web technology, the concept of citations are the pre-electronic version of web links: the text in the body of your document links to a reference which in turn links to a source document. Each step in that chain of evidence needs to be immediately apparent and easy to follow.