The funny thing about WordPress (the platform that hosts this blog) is that it will try to find other related blog postings, and link to them at the end of each new post. On one of my recent blog entries concerning source citations, WordPress recommended the post “The new citation,” originally published on 29 March 2010 in the (non-genealogy) blog Brave New World. This blog is written by Tania Sheko, the “Learning Enhancement Coordinator and teacher librarian at Whitefriars College in Melbourne, Australia.”
In “The new citation,” Tania recommends using hyperlinks to sources rather than footnote or endnote citations. In her words,
The hyperlinked citations are much more than an attribution of cited sources; they are also:
- a direct link the the source itself
- a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
- a dense and complexly charged way of writing
What I like best about hyperlinked citation is that it leads me to places I haven’t discovered, giving me the option of following new research paths, often serendipitous. It’s an exciting way to learn – not didactic, not limiting, but opening up options for independent learning.
Shouldn’t we start to teach students this new way of reading and writing?
This is an extremely interesting concept for writing online, especially in blogs. You will notice that many bloggers already do this exact thing, when writing their blog posts. In this post, for example, I include hyperlinks to both “The new citation” and to the home page of Brave New World.
But is this really a citation?
In some ways, yes, and in some ways no, from the perspective of a genealogist.
For the purposes of connecting to an original online source, a hyperlink is efficient, and should be used wherever possible. As Tania calls it, hyperlinked online writing is certainly a “new way of writing.”
On the other hand, it neglects to take into consideration the mutable nature of the Internet. Simply put, websites change. Pages and the resources held on them move and sometimes disappear. When this happens, will you be left without a citation?
If you are citing an online record source–whether it is an image copy, an abstract, a transcription, a family tree, or an article–you still need to provide a full source citation. As discussed in the post “Source Citations: Getting It ‘Right,’ part two,” a proper citation for Tania’s blog post, as part of a bibliography or “Sources Used” list, would be
Sheko, Tania. “The new citation.” Brave New World. Posted 29 March 2010. http://tsheko.wordpress.com/2010/03/29/the-new-citation/ : 2011.
This citation provides the name of the author, the title of the article, and the publication (blog) name. In addition to this, it would be proper to note the date of the post (just in case she decided to post another article with the same title). And then of course the URL (the publication location) and the date on which the article was accessed. This second date reveals a recent date on which the particular item was located on the cited webpage. As mentioned in my earlier post, if the page moves or disappears in the future, it may be possible to access the item using the Wayback Machine or a similar utility.
All this being said, I do also agree with Tania’s point. The capability to embed a hyperlink to the source directly in the text is there, so why not use it? My recommendation would be to use both methods. Hyperlink within the text itself, but also include a source list (or numbered endnotes) with the full citations. This solution would allow the independent research described in Tania’s blog, but also meet the standards for citations expected by genealogists.
I would like to hear the thoughts of others on this topic.