Last week, I talked about how to mash up different citation formats to fit an odd duck in your citation list. Got a research paper that’s available for download but doesn’t list an author? Combine a couple of standard citation examples, and you’re on your way. This week, I’ll review what to do when you have to create a citation format from scratch.
The point of any citation is to help the reader find the original source. The standard information given is:
- Publication facts
Often, the trick is to figure out which details of your source material most closely align with one of those three categories and add any information that will help the reader quickly identify what the source is and where to find it.
The author is the creator of copy. If you’re citing something created in a different medium, ask yourself who the creator is. For example, when the performance of a song is cited, the singer is the creator and goes into the author slot.
For items like social media postings, the author is the person making the comment. For example, Averill Buchanan commented on one of our Facebook posts recently. If we were to cite her comment, her Facebook handle (in this case, her name) would go in the author slot.
Here’s a Chicago-style endnote for it:
Averill Buchanan, “Have you seen the new Twitter account: @ComposedOf?” (Facebook comment), February 10, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/copyediting/posts/10153576168163332.
There are two concerns with titles: what to do if you don’t have one and whether to include additional information to describe the source.
Blog post comments, for example, don’t generally have titles (Copyediting is an exception). The Publication of the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends identifying the comment with the blog post, like this bibliography entry (7.11.76):
MiddleKid. (2007, January 22). Re: The unfortunate prerequisites and consequences of partitioning your mind (Web log comment). Retrieved from http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/01/the_unfortunate_prerequisites…
APA also notes the type of content in the title field. This is really an expansion of something several style guides do already: Press releases, news releases, and audiovisual materials are called out in citations.
APA Style blog recommends using up to the first 40 words in untitled social media content for the title. For one of our recent Twitter posts, we would reproduce the whole tweet (21 words) and tag it. In Chicago endnote style:
Copyediting, “Happy anniversary to us! @Copyediting is turning 25, and our latest newsletter kicks off a year-long celebration. Members, check your email!” (tweet), posted March 20, 2015, https://twitter.com/Copyediting/status/578937966149644288.
Standard publishing facts include the publisher, the publisher’s location, and the date of publication. In the case of social media platforms, however, the users are the publishers and may be the author as well.
By identifying the type of content with the title, you’ve effectively told people the source is a social media website. The posting date is your publication date. If a post date isn’t listed, use the date you accessed the information, and then add the post’s URL.
Here’s an example for a slide show found on SlideShare:
Zipcar Inc., “Millennials & Driving: A Survey Commissioned by Zipcar” (SlideShare slide deck), posted December 12, 2011, http://www.slideshare.net/Zipcar_Inc/millennial-slide-share-final.
None of these examples are written in stone. Your team may have a different take on what to label and what information is necessary for the reader to find the source. Your audience may be comfortable with social media citations, for instance, and you may decide you don’t need to label them. Do what works.
Once you decide on what information is important, be consistent, both with the information and with the presentation of it. Record your format in your house style guide. With the ease of digital publication and research via the Internet, it’s a good bet you’ll use the format again.