I will start by being reassuring.  I did not receive a parking ticket, or a traffic ticket, or any kind of summons to court.  Sadly, neither was I mentioned in an official capacity for a “praiseworthy act.”  No, my dear friends, I have simply heard back from the editor of my book.

The good news is that I do not have to do massive rewrites.  Apparently my writing is clear and engaging.  Points to me!  However, the publisher I’ve chosen has a reputation for a higher content standard than is common among books on spirituality.  (That would be why I picked them.)  He wants to hold my chatty humanities text to an academic social sciences standard.   Footnotes a la Terry Pratchett are not acceptable.

Let me give you a little bit of background.  I have never written a research paper in my life.  I have a BA in Theater Arts and never took a college English course.  I dodged the bullet so to speak.  I tested out of the Freshman English requirement and never looked back.

I had a class in high school final quarter, senior year that was all about ‘writing the research paper’.  I have all the theory necessary to accomplish the task.  I can even identify a properly cited entry off a test page.  As it turned out I had plenty of credits to graduate without the English class so I blew it off.

Now after all these years I’m finally cornered.  I have to actually write citations for my thesis.  I have to put together a bibliography.  I’m suffering.  I make an off handed comment in the book about Jazz theory and training.  The editor says, please cite a source.  Shit.

I’ve been involved in music all my life.  My mother turned down a scholarship to music school in favor of nursing.  My sister, the music teacher, had an offer from the Sydney Philharmonic upon graduating with her BA.  I played in band from 5th grade through 12th. I listened to a radio interview awhile ago with a jazz musician talking about learning jazz and jazz camp.  Do I have any idea who that musician was?  Do I even know if I heard the interview last month or last year or ten years ago?  No, of course not.  But now I have to find a source that supports my comment (or I suppose delete the comment.)

I know how to write a citation for Encyclopedia Britannica, but how do I write a citation for Wikapedia?  In looking for quotes for the book I would remember something existed and then go find it on line.  It was convenient.  Do I cite the online source or the original?  There are so many sites that promote it, the King James Bible exists in perpetuity on line.  It’s certainly easier to find a quote through Google than by digging out my grandmother’s copy, who’s pages are crumbling and falling out of the binding.

Then there are the movie references.  Sure most of those movies were originally books, but it’s the visual that I’m referencing.  Do I list the screenwriter, the director or the original author?  Is it important to note the city and state of the studio or is listing the country of origin adequate?

I understand that citations are important.  They add a level of validation and credibility.  They can also be so much self referential bullshit.  Especially in small fields of study (the Mayan prophecies, paper review science research, biography of a saint) one or two authors become prominent in the field, reference each other’s work and then everyone else references them.  Digging deeply, the page of bibliography boils down to one original source, but the bibliography itself is impressive.

The massive spreading of a small bit of misinformation is not limited to on-line sources.  The computer world simply means the spread is faster and broader.  It’s easy to find supportive quotes outside one’s field of expertise. It’s hard to validate that information except by review of how broadly it’s distributed.  So maybe Mark Twain said it and maybe he didn’t, but everyone on line seems to think he did.  Pick one and write a citation.

About lisaspiral

I've been writing and speaking about spirituality to small groups for years and am looking to expand my horizons. Hopefully this blog will inspire you to expand yours as well.

Posted on May 7, 2012, in Bio, Books, spirituality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Okay, actually, this is easier than you think. The problem is that you are having to work backward from information gleened over the course of a lifetime. You probably know this, but I would avoid Wikipedia and Google searches. Go to your local university libary and ask for assistance from a reference librarian. That person will help you. It’s his or her job. As far as citation format goes, I would get an MLA Handbook. However, you need to know what format your publisher prefers/recommends. For example, do they want you to use MLA format, or the Chicago Style Sheet. I would ask before you get started, because when you do your research, most indexes will email you a citation for your source in the format of your choice–but you have to pick one. You need to know which one you want, so you don’t have to rework all of your citations later.

    I taught colllege writing in my former life. Good luck.


  2. Sysliene Turpin

    Try, I have used it for my essays, term papers, research papers in different formats and have had no complaints.

  3. OK, since I don’t know how to do this citation-thingee either, I’ll agree with you: sounds like a pain in the patootie! Lucky you, though, to have a book birthing.

  4. Thomas Juntunen

    Hey Lisa, coming late to the party, but I feel your pain. Last summer I turned in my master’s thesis — which had several pages of citations — and now I’m helping edit other folk’s papers as well as doing some writing of my own that may end up being submitted to a journal someday. Citations are a pain. As long as you have a reference, the citation machine mentioned above works pretty well and understands the two big standards, MLA and APA, both of which have forms for online (including Wikipedia) references. But you need those references to begin with…

    I don’t know what browser you use, but I use Firefox (mostly) and found an amazingly handy little extension called Zotero that allowed me to grab and store references from online research, from which I could later get my citations. As a U student, I had access to RefWorks which I found really good (especially as it’ll put citations and bibliographies straight into a Word or Google doc), but Zotero can help do the formatting by itself.

    If the publisher is going to hold you to an academic standard then I don’t think you have much choice but to find your references as best you can. One tip I have is to try searching using Google Scholar (from a Google search page pick More from the menu bar at the top, then Even More, then look under specialized search). While you can use it for searching like in a library (by author, ISBN, etc.) just putting general purpose words in the title field often yields useful results. And all the results have links that provide citations in various formats (for example, I could put entries directly into RefWorks). You might find either the articles you read or similar ones you could cite instead.

    Good luck!

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