This morning I made the banner above to set as my desktop background. That’s because I didn’t do what it says, although I’d read over and over again about what good practice it is, what a good idea it is. As a person who’s mostly dabbled in fiction, however, I never thought too much about it.
I was excited when I started this current project, and eager to see how it would come together. I was so absorbed in the process of writing, I didn’t want to be distracted with the tedious work involved in the minutiae of how to cite correctly.
I mean, first of all, what style to use? APA? MLA? Chicago? Then there’s the difficulty of figuring out how to cite all kinds of sources, on and offline. Seriously, it seemed more overwhelming than the actual research. And that’s been pretty overwhelming.
I’ve been writing a local history book (based in Northeastern PA) for over a year now. I’d guesstimate that I’m about halfway through. I’ve set it aside for months at a time, as day-to-day life got in the way. But as we enter the New Year, I have more time to devote to my project.
Last week I pulled out my files and booted up my laptop. I examined my work in progress and decided that it would be best to finally face my citation fears, cite my research, and resolve to cite as I write from here on out.
As I began to research how to cite, I came to the conclusion that IT IS more overwhelming than the research itself. That said, I know it’s absolutely imperative to cite your sources. Firstly, to give credit where credit is due (thank you to all my sources!) Secondly, to provide credibility to my work.
At first, I’d thought that I’d just write this book for my own satisfaction, or maybe to share with family who are also interested in the locale of some of our family roots. But I realized that even for those purposes, documenting sources will be helpful to any reader curious for more info beyond what’s presented in my book.
And finally, I have begun to entertain the idea of publishing my work, either by submitting it to local history publishing companies, or doing print-on-demand and/or eBook through Amazon, for example. If I actually pursue this route, of course it’s absolutely necessary to have citations, and done correctly.
I’ve spent the last few days wading through information about how to cite for genealogical publication, because those are the types of sources I’ve mostly been using. I decided that Chicago-style citations are best, and found a handful of websites that I’m using to cobble together my bibliography. I’ll use endnotes, because I personally find the notes from footnotes at the bottom of each page so distracting.
Am I doing it right? I’m not totally sure, but I’m following my instincts in making sure that I provide all the basic information, and in a consistent style.
I’m not usually someone who has to learn things the hard way but here I am, facing another tedious day of relocating online sources for citation info. Frustrating.
Cite as you write, my writing friends. It’s best practice, and take it from one who’s learned the hard way, a really good idea.