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Citation

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.

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