Citations and Book Resources

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Citations and Book Resources

Postby rigelan » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:59 pm UTC

I graduated from college in 2005, and when I was in college we were required to use citations from books and journals in our research papers. At least this was the case in most classes.

For those who are currently in college, or just graduated, have the requirements of certain types of resources and citations changed in your school because of popularity and usefulness of the internet?

I teach high school science and am charged with the task of preparing high school students for college, and we (the teachers) were wondering what sort of text resources or internet resources colleges currently use for essays or research papers.

Any thoughts?
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby Hofstadter'sLaw » Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:57 am UTC

For all my classes, my professors have always expected us to use scholarly sources. We’re encouraged to rely mainly on books and journal articles (electronic versions are fine—that’s what most people use unless something’s only available in print). We can also use magazines, newspapers and websites for some papers, but they shouldn’t be the only sources used. Newspapers, magazines and websites have to be credible. (Who published it? How current is it? How detailed is it? Is it fact or opinion?)

This should be obvious, but people ignore/forget it anyway: No Wikipedia.

I think teaching them how to determine the credibility of sources and how to use online catalogs and databases would great.

Maybe introduce Boolean operators, truncation, etc. for catalogs/databases, and look at advanced options for internet search engines? I've seen a bunch of articles about how college students suck at research because they're used to just plugging stuff into Google, so that might be helpful.

The only citation styles I've ever used were MLA and APA, even for the science classes. (Science professors seemed to just care about having citations, not so much what style was used.)
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby Tirian » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:15 am UTC

I'm in my first semester of a master's program, and there seems to be an understanding that there is a phenomenal amount of data on the internet. The current APA style guide offers guidance on how to cite a thread in an online forum or a blog post. At the same time, professors tend to make it clear that material that isn't from a peer-reviewed source is of limited academic value. On the third hand, academic journals and newspapers and magazines are increasingly searched and accessed online these days, so best practices does not necessarily involve stepping away from the Google.

I tend to be conservative. The wildest I've gotten this semester is sourcing the Mayo Clinic website, which is vaguely encyclopedic.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby ahammel » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:22 am UTC

I just checked my database of citations. The breakdown was roughly 80% journal articles and 10% books with the rest distributed among personal communications, conference proceedings and thesis defenses.

The only time I ever recall citing a webpage in a scholarly work was something like "I downloaded this piece of software from here", and those were accompanied by citations of journal articles regarding said software.

If I were teaching it, I wouldn't worry too about what style citations should be in. It's more important to understand what the point is (so other people can track down the sources of your ideas and information) and what primary literature is. I run into a lot of post-secondary students who are fuzzy on that point.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby gorcee » Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:27 am UTC

As an aside, it always frustrated me in high school when we had to use MLA or APA citation styles. It never made any sense to me. If I was writing a paper for my physics class, what fucking role does the Modern Library Association or American Psychological Association have to do with physics? I mean sure, I get the idea of training someone how to cite something, but really nitpicking the format they use when those tiny, specific details are probably unrelated to anything they'll ever do? It just seems silly.

Even now, I write dozens of technical reports and proposals a year. I probably cite 200-300 works a year, and the format varies project by project. You just look it up, and if you can't find the right information within 5 minutes, you just make up a format that seems right.

I never got a good answer for why we had to adhere to those standards. I would have been satisfied with "these standards are pretty easy and don't require any domain- or journal-specific syntax formatting."

Hell, most societies (ie IEEE) have downloadable BiBTeX templates for how to cite your stuff. Most of the time, I don't even pay attention to what the format is. It's just @Article { author = {John Doe}, title = {A study on the uselessness of highly pedantic pedagogy of citation styles in secondary education}, ...}

Anyway, to respond to the OP's question, I would take this approach:

to cite something from the internet, it must be an original, and not derivative or summary source. If it is a summary or derivative source, locate and cite the original source material. if it is an original source, cite the article in the most closely-applicable format, and add [Internet] and [accessed on DATE] to the citation. If the minimal information cannot be found, or if the site is not an industry-relevant publication, then do not cite it. If you are citing an opinion piece in a critical analysis where citing opinion is necessary, then fuck it; it's the wild west at that point.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby EvanED » Sat Mar 31, 2012 10:46 pm UTC

ahammel wrote:The only time I ever recall citing a webpage in a scholarly work was something like "I downloaded this piece of software from here", and those were accompanied by citations of journal articles regarding said software.

This is about true for me too, though there isn't always an accompanying article.

Though I suspect this may have been cited more than most refereed papers. :-)
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby Vangor » Thu Apr 05, 2012 9:01 pm UTC

rigelan wrote:I teach high school science and am charged with the task of preparing high school students for college, and we (the teachers) were wondering what sort of text resources or internet resources colleges currently use for essays or research papers.


With mass digitization of journals and research and the trend towards news online, there is far less of a gap between internet and physical sources. I find greater concern than where the source was located is the ability to synthesize and critique information. In a literature review, for instance, you may have wonderfully credible sources, but failing to see shortcomings in research and inability to use the information to support your own research makes for a weak section and rationale.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby Dopefish » Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:50 am UTC

How do people feel about citing papers on ArXiv?

I've definitely seen papers published in journals cite papers on ArXiv, but they're not strictly peer reviewed, so that makes them kinda iffy.


The fact that wikipedia isn't typically a citeable source (it bothered me greatly that one of my professors textbooks cites stuff from wikipedia..) is perhaps somewhat ironic, since I reckon it's one of the first places everyone goes to find information on a topic. Sure, from there you're going to want to dig deeper and find peer reviewed stuff, but it's definitely a resource that people are likely to even use while getting a PhD.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby ahammel » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:06 am UTC

Dopefish wrote:How do people feel about citing papers on ArXiv?

I've definitely seen papers published in journals cite papers on ArXiv, but they're not strictly peer reviewed, so that makes them kinda iffy.

I've never done it, but I don't see a big problem with it. If I were to do that, I'd be sure to either make a note in the text that the paper specified is not peer-reviewed, or, if it's a pre-print, inline cite it as "submitted" and note that it was accessed from arXiv in the end-notes.

Dopefish wrote:The fact that wikipedia isn't typically a citeable source (it bothered me greatly that one of my professors textbooks cites stuff from wikipedia..) is perhaps somewhat ironic, since I reckon it's one of the first places everyone goes to find information on a topic. Sure, from there you're going to want to dig deeper and find peer reviewed stuff, but it's definitely a resource that people are likely to even use while getting a PhD.

It's not the fact that it isn't peer-reviewed that makes Wiki uncitable; it's the fact that it's an encyclopedia. Encyclopedia citations are useless because they don't tell the reader where the data come from.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby gorcee » Fri Apr 06, 2012 2:49 pm UTC

Dopefish wrote:How do people feel about citing papers on ArXiv?

I've definitely seen papers published in journals cite papers on ArXiv, but they're not strictly peer reviewed, so that makes them kinda iffy.


The fact that wikipedia isn't typically a citeable source (it bothered me greatly that one of my professors textbooks cites stuff from wikipedia..) is perhaps somewhat ironic, since I reckon it's one of the first places everyone goes to find information on a topic. Sure, from there you're going to want to dig deeper and find peer reviewed stuff, but it's definitely a resource that people are likely to even use while getting a PhD.


Being in mathematics, I do find it somewhat odd, although totally understandable, that Wikipedia isn't a citeable source. I understand totally for things like history or literature or art, where there is substantial room for interpretation, and the material is mostly summary anyways. But for math, like, the equations and proofs are either right, or they're wrong. And those things can be checked pretty easily. If I need to reference the Cameron-Martin theorem, then Wikipedia is pretty much just as good a source as the original paper; perhaps moreso, since the Wikipedia page also contains information/terminology that has arisen as a result of the CMT in the decades since its publication.

I feel as though there's been an attempt (or several) in recent years to create an online mathematics source that is reliable, but I can't say for certain. It sure seems like it would be nice to have.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby rigelan » Fri Apr 06, 2012 5:00 pm UTC

Thanks for all your responses. I have been checking every day to see the number of people who have contributed to this conversation.

For scholarly works - citing peer reviewed materials makes a lot of sense - and the peer-reviewed journal could be online or not, it probably doesn't matter - its the same journal.

But for background information on a topic, we don't typically examine peer-reviewed literature. Peer reviewed literature is looked at to examine a specific claim made by a research group. And at the high school level - at least my students - I'm not sure they would get much out of the peer reviewed literature. They would certainly get much more out of an encyclopedia type resource (like wikipedia). This is because they don't have ANY background in the topic they are researching. We all have to start somewhere.

The high school students are not producing peer-reviewed literature. They are typically producing essays, opinions, summaries, and background information on lab reports of what they find. Is Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia for that matter) appropriate to cite a source for this? Or perhaps a better question - what types of sources are appropriate for writing about science (or other subjects) at the high school level?
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby Vangor » Sat Apr 07, 2012 2:40 am UTC

rigelan wrote:Is Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia for that matter) appropriate to cite a source for this?


Wikipedia is not an appropriate source to cite for the foundation of research papers, but to introduce a somewhat tangential, contextual concept this would useful. However, Wikipedia has numerous citations which should be used first when possible; not only are primary sources easier for the audience to trust but also provide stronger, narrower information.

Again, I would stress synthesis of material. As accurate as Wikipedia might be, there is little to glean from someone who simply paraphrases Wikipedia or any other source. Rather, adding own thoughts to the material, noting weaknesses or strengths, comparing with other material, etc., allows you to know students are critical of sources and therefore more likely to find accurate information as well understanding the information presented. The more knowledgeable my professors the more likely such papers stressed synthesis, and this is what I try to impart to my students.

rigelan wrote:Or perhaps a better question - what types of sources are appropriate for writing about science (or other subjects) at the high school level?


Any form of scholarly journals. Peer review is not often necessary, but any articles written by experts who are either expressing prior experience and research or information specifically researched for writing the article are great. Less scholarly but still credible would be National Geographic and the sort. I would avoid encyclopedias simply because no comprehension has to be made on generically written entries; those do not serve students well nor your purposes for assessment.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby starslayer » Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:48 am UTC

I would argue against citing/using scientific journals for a high-school level paper, mostly because the student is unlikely to be able to understand and critically evaluate most of the material published in them (if I handed a typical paper from PRL or ApJ to a high-school physics student, for example, they'd be completely lost). This is probably mitigated in a field like history, but I think the issue is still present to an extent.

Mostly, I recommend using published sources that themselves cite their sources; for a field like history, it would be good if the work being used cited primary sources. Just about any sort of book or article on the subject would qualify, as long as it wasn't encyclopedic in nature, as Vangor described.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby Dopefish » Sat Apr 07, 2012 4:42 am UTC

For what it's worth, when I was in high school, a fair number of my citations arose by going to wiki for the topic, and then hunting down the sources that wiki cited (the perk of wiki compared to a standard encylcopedia is that most wiki pages actually do cite sources). This usual lead to relatively simple papers, or websites, and occasionally textbooks I could get my hands on.

On that note, I would imagine that (specifically relevant sections of) university level textbooks would be a reasonable source for high schoolers to cite from depending on the subject, since that stuff is designed to be digestable. Many textbooks (including high school level ones) also have sections that list other books/papers for further reading that can lead to stuff suitable for citing.

Of course, the emphisis should be on being able to back up your claims, versus getting x number of tangentially related citations just for the sake of having citations. However I suspect many high schoolers are going to treat it as the latter, in which case there may be utility in having them actual go to journals. This way they at least gain familiarity with that process of finding relevant papers which is apt to be useful, even if they only read the abstract of the actual paper.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby gorcee » Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:52 am UTC

Since Wikipedia is unciteable in most everyday applications (unless you're writing a paper specifically *about* Wikipedia, perhaps), I'd definitely caution against it.

However, many elementary topics, such as those covered in HS courses, aren't even going to be found in advanced literature. Let's say that a student is going to do a paper on the Rutherford experiment. What's a reasonable source for this paper? Although this was breakthrough science for its time, it's actually quite trivial in the modern era, and its implications are frequently taught to students in HS. Obviously, you're not going to cite anything from a scholarly journal, since that's years ahead of their abilities to understand. At the same time, what's a reliable source at this point?

A textbook is a good source, but aside from their physics textbook, it's going to be hard for a HS student to get his/her hands on multiple textbooks. The original paper(s) would be an acceptable citation, of course, but those papers are still going to be difficult to understand, if for no other reason than they're written vis-a-vis the science of the times, so many of the implications, assumptions, background material will be dated, or in some cases, wrong.

Other sources could be biographical/historical notes, but there will likely be less than a handful of these, and may be difficult to find. "Oh, my paper's due in two weeks? Great, this Amazon reseller has a used copy, and can get it here in 7 business days. Oh, that leaves me about 2 days to read it, understand it, and turn it into a paper. Great."

It seems somewhat contradictory, but it's far easier to find sources for more advanced topics than it is for elementary topics. I suspect that this is a big reason why early undergrads/HS students lean so heavily on Wikipedia, as virtually all of Wikipedia's entries basically cover what amounts to entry-level knowledge in whatever specific topic is at hand.

That said, a fair trade-off might be "cite Wikipedia, but always cite it concurrently with another source." This seems reasonable, as many statements on Wikipedia have a citation that you can follow, so it's simple enough to find that other source, and any uncited blurb in Wikipedia will require some further sleuthing.
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby Bakemaster » Mon Apr 16, 2012 1:32 am UTC

rigelan wrote:The high school students are not producing peer-reviewed literature. They are typically producing essays, opinions, summaries, and background information on lab reports of what they find. Is Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia for that matter) appropriate to cite a source for this? Or perhaps a better question - what types of sources are appropriate for writing about science (or other subjects) at the high school level?

By high school, students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias of any kind as a general rule. There can always be exceptions to a rule, but I think here they would be few and far between.

It could be reasonable to cite an encyclopedia when providing information that's simultaneously trivial and esoteric in a general sense, but non-trivial with respect to the argument of the paper. For instance, I might write an essay arguing that numerology is dishonest hogwash in which I use dates of certain events in the lives of historical figures to construct satirical illustrative examples. In this scenario, the dates are likely not common knowledge and are non-trivial as part of the argument of the paper; but they are essentially trivial and reasonably esoteric in a general context. Depending on how esoteric, you might even have to consult a biography of the historical figure rather than an encyclopedia entry (the year in which Thomas Jefferson was born vs. the year in which Thomas Jefferson first ate red meat), which just makes this particular hypothetical exception to the rule that much less realistic. And I'm sure there are many who would argue in such a situation that any date which is commonly accepted and easily verified in any number of encyclopedia entries doesn't require a citation at all. I think I might be one of them, in fact.
gorcee wrote:Let's say that a student is going to do a paper on the Rutherford experiment. What's a reasonable source for this paper? Although this was breakthrough science for its time, it's actually quite trivial in the modern era, and its implications are frequently taught to students in HS. Obviously, you're not going to cite anything from a scholarly journal, since that's years ahead of their abilities to understand. At the same time, what's a reliable source at this point?

Probably some combination of history books about science, biographies of scientists involved, and textbooks. There's also a surprising amount of information on university websites, and when the author is identified, those would seem to be as credible as any secondary internet source could hope to be.

The concession that some of my instructors have made in the past is to require e.g. a minimum of 6 sources of which a minimum of 3 must be credible (or peer-reviewed) and a maximum of 1 from an internet source. If I met that goal I could include as many additional citations from internet sources as I liked (though going overboard with sources merits point deduction on its own right, in some situations).
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Re: Citations and Book Resources

Postby Jahoclave » Thu May 03, 2012 4:27 am UTC

rigelan wrote:Thanks for all your responses. I have been checking every day to see the number of people who have contributed to this conversation.

For scholarly works - citing peer reviewed materials makes a lot of sense - and the peer-reviewed journal could be online or not, it probably doesn't matter - its the same journal.

But for background information on a topic, we don't typically examine peer-reviewed literature. Peer reviewed literature is looked at to examine a specific claim made by a research group. And at the high school level - at least my students - I'm not sure they would get much out of the peer reviewed literature. They would certainly get much more out of an encyclopedia type resource (like wikipedia). This is because they don't have ANY background in the topic they are researching. We all have to start somewhere.

The high school students are not producing peer-reviewed literature. They are typically producing essays, opinions, summaries, and background information on lab reports of what they find. Is Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia for that matter) appropriate to cite a source for this? Or perhaps a better question - what types of sources are appropriate for writing about science (or other subjects) at the high school level?


In general, background information on a topic would be considered common knowledge and not need to be cited. As somebody who teaches college writing courses, I would have to say that many students are coming into college woefully under-prepared in how to use things like databases to find academic/peer-reviewed literature. One of the things is just how to read abstracts and conclusions to know if a piece will be useful to the argument. The other problem is they have very little ability to analyze sources.

One thing is teaching them how to go to the citations on wikipedia and follow them to the actual source material.
Another is teaching them that a Google search is going to find you a boatload of crap that won't be accepted as a proper source when they get to college.
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