Proper e-citations as an information ethics issuePosted: 11 Apr 2011
What are the common ways that people cite information online? How do you do it? Do you use a full bibliographic citation? Probably not. That is because writing for the web is different than writing an academic paper, a book chapter, an essay or something else that requires proper citation.
Online most people tend to be relaxed and informal about citations because web writing lends itself to a more conversational format. Only a real snoot* would want everything discussed in a blog post displayed in proper MLA Works Cited format. Usually a hyperlink, an @ or, my favorite, a h/t is common. I have been thinking a lot about this idea since a discussion came up in one of my classes, International Issues for Info Professionals, recently. The professor, Deborah Turner, requires that all students properly cite sources in Blackboard discussions. Since she is running this class as an e-seminar, she discussed having torn feelings about this. It has been my experience that most professors do not require full citations. Or, if they do, I have managed to maintain a GPA of 3.9 without ever once doing it.
The more I think about this issue, the more I realize just how relaxed I have become in regards to proper citation and giving credit online. It is probably a product of my many years of blogging and participating in online forums where informal citations are, to borrow Professor Turner’s words, “e-cultural norms.” Nevertheless, I am about to become an Information Professional. Or, at least, I am going to have an expensive piece of paper saying I am qualified to be one in some capacity. Should I not begin holding myself to a higher standard on this issue? How can I be serious about respecting ideas or protecting intellectual property if I myself do not practice it?
But here is the problem. Full bibliographic citations do not work on the web. I tried doing it in this blog post for everything that I hyperlinked and it looked silly and awkward. In Blackboard it is easier and makes sense due to the nature of the discussions there (btw, my newest project is to include sources from outside LIS and attempt to relate them to as many of the discussions as possible on Bb in order to make things more interesting. I’ll probably blog about this at some point).
Everyone deserves credit for their work. What is the best way to ensure this on the web? Does anyone have any references about this topic for me? Is there any literature about it? Any thoughts? Is this even something Information Professionals should worry about? I’m curious.
* For an explanation of “snoot” please see David Foster Wallace’s (2001) essay Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars Over Usage.