Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Citation Entry 1

For this first blog entry, I want to write about “the big picture,” but first, a word about how I will write this blog. It is somewhat intimidating to me to write on writing: after all, my own writing is imperfect. I believe, however, that I can best communicate to you about writing if I do it using an informal style (don’t want you to fall asleep as you are reading this!) and if I am brief. So, the irony is, I will be writing about formal writing in an informal style.

So what is the big picture? If you can remember only three things for you to strive to accomplish in your writing, here they are:

1. The proper use and citation of evidence (look for quality of evidence entry coming soon!)
2. The logical and orderly presentation of ideas.
3. Accuracy and precision in language.

Of course, these three things encompass a lot individually, and I will tackle the first one in this first blog entry, the proper use and citation of evidence.

When you are writing an academic or scholarly paper, you will be using a variety of sources for your evidence. The type of source depends on the assignment. In some classes, you may be using life histories or other personal accounts as evidence for your positions, thoughts or ideas. If you are writing a scholarly, literature review, however, you will more likely be using scholarly journal articles. The “gold standard” or journal articles in the peer-reviewed journal, in which experts in the field review each article to accept or reject it for publication.

Why cite? Citation is when you give acknowledgement to the original author(s) of a work. This gives that author credit for his or her work and shows the reader where the info came from. Failure to cite (or “failure to properly attribute ideas”) is considered plagiarism, and you don’t want to go there [an aside: in my years of teaching, I have found many many students writing in such a way that they are technically plagiarizing a work. They copy a sentence here, part of a sentence there, from other works and string them together without citation. And, in many cases, students have not been caught doing this. It takes, however, just one time you do get caught to have significant consequences at most colleges and universities.]

Citation allows the reader to find the original source material, gives the reader an idea of the strength or quality of the evidence presented and is just proper, ethical practice.

Citation in social work is most often done according to the American Psychological Association Manual, and that is what I am showing here.

Citation is usually simple: (author(s), year), as in:
One study suggested that more people like dogs than cats (Thomas, 2000).

An in-text citation of the same source is:
Thomas (2000) found that more people like dogs than cats.

However, there are variations, for example when an:

Organization is an author:
Approximately 10,000 people suffer from gizmophobia (National Association of Technology Research, 1999). [No, this disorder does not exist, but I might have it!]
If you are going to refer to this a second time, you can abbreviate it the first time and just use the abbreviation the second time, as follows:
Approximately 10,000 people suffer from gizmophobia (National Association of Technology Research [NATR], 1999)…and the second citation is just (NATR, 1999).

Multiple author citations (note the &):
Physical development does not necessarily end at 18 years of age (Smith & Jones, 2000).

Secondary source citation: when one author reports someone else’s work:
More people like dogs, though cats have fewer care needs (Peebles, 1995, as cited in Whiskers & Furry, 2000).

Citation of a quotation: When you directly use another person's words, you need the page or paragraph number (para number for an electronic source that is not a pdf with page numbers on it):
Gizmophobia can be defined as "an intense and irrational fear of technology" (Johnson, 1998, p. 17).

Multiple sources citation: alphabetical order, by the first author’s surname, separated by ;
Several studies showed that more people like dogs than cats (Brice, 1990; King, 1992; Price & Wagner, 1994).

To find more, look “Reference Citations” in the APA manual index.
You can post a comment or question here and I will be happy to answer it.

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