Archived articles on WRT now include a citation in the footer, formatted in both MLA style and Harvard style. This is an experiment I coded in a few minutes using Wordpress template tags, then added to the Single Post template page. Next steps might include making a switchable display that supported more formats (Chicago, APA, etc.) and wrapping it up as a Wordpress Plugin for portability and reuse. An advanced plugin might generate a link to a downloadable BibTex or EndNote entry, for direct compatability with desktop reference manager software. Other directions might include incorporating complete citation information into the page HTML header, printing the citation into the title bar, or incorporating it in-page in a microformat.

Other people have discussed wanting a Wordpress citation plugin, but to my knowledge nobody has actually made one. This lack is in part unsuprising - after all, most bloggers aren’t academic or research bloggers, and even in a research blog not every entry seems worth citing. It might seem presumptuous to bring the pomp and circumstance of the formal bibliographic citation to the footer of small conversational posts such as this one. For most citation online, the lightweight hypertext link is citation enough.

Sometimes, however, the link isn’t enough. A citation needs to describe the source - the author, title, site name, and publication date. How often can you quickly and easily find all four? I’ve encountered a variety of problems - for example, when the entry title is one phrase, but the HTML TITLE tag is a slightly different phrase. With database driven blogs, there is more regularity, but there are also a host of other common problems. For example, on a public blog, the author account on every post might be listed as “jj.” To resolve this, navigate to the homepage and then the author bio in order to find out that this is one “Janette Blancher.” Datestamps often display the month and day, but not the year - if there is no permalink structure in the URL, navigating the archives will generally resolve this. However nothing will help if the post lists the time of day, but not the date - you can only deduce that it was written at 2:53 AM sometime in the year 2005.

These effects are in part the nature of the medium, but in the case of (non-anonymous) blogging, they are often artifacts of poor presentation. The blog content management system has an internal record of a complete author name, title, and date to-the-second, yet that information is scattered in incomplete form all across the website. The total time to assemble a citation can be 4 minutes, rather than a 3 second cut-and-paste.

So why isn’t it conventional for academic and research blogs to provide convenient citations? After all, it is not outrageously presumptuous for internet researchers to acknowledge that they commonly cite newsgroup posts, blog entries, and so on, or that they write in the hope of participating in a conversation and being cited in turn. The database driven blog seems to be the place to provide the citation information at the source - either through a plugin that supports many formatting standards, or through some metadata or microformat that can be parsed by the receiver.

It is worth mentioning that this problem (facilitating the citation of self-published internet resources in academic bibliographies) is a very specific one - many intelligent people have worked very hard on the larger problems of “citation” online, from the ongoing work of Ted Nelson, to the standards like OpenURL and its embedding in web pages through COinS (which is a Wordpress plugin), citationally oriented linkrolling services like CiteULike or Connotea, and smart webcrawling indexers like Google Scholar.

Are these new concerns? The tag CITE was part of the orginal HTML specification. We could also consider extending the CITE tag for contemporary use, and reflect on the observation that HTML was originally developed to support a citational culture - the circulation of scientific papers. This was pointed out by… someone. The name wasn’t on the posting page.

12 Responses to “Citation Footers for Academic Blogging”

  1. 1 noah

    Hmm… In addition to citing blog posts, I also have cited blog post comments a couple times. I’d love to have a little string of links at the end of each post/comment, linking to different citation formats. Maybe a string like “h m b e” — which, when you mouseover, lets you know that the letters link to Harvard, MLA, BibTeX, and EndNote references, respectively. Of course, I know that blog citation software development is a little far off from your primary area of focus — but I think folks would appreciate any way that you choose to package this up and make it more easily available.

  2. 2 Christy Dena

    Well done Jeremy! Show the code!

    Noah, and others, we were just talking about citing comments the other day. A comment can be a lengthy essay in itself and can be the reason for the citation. Do you cite the comment number, if available, as a title? A listserv response is easier because it has a “re:” usually added to the subject line, which gives it a unique title.

    Another problem I’ve had is when referring to a blog post, I find at times I’m referring to the initial author who instigated the post and at other times I refer to the whole thread. I guess we can say “et al.” along with the initial author if we mean the entire post.

    What solutions have others come up with to these problems?

  3. 3 Jeremy Douglass

    Christy, what do you think about citing it like a book review? That is, if the blog comment has a title, formatting:

    Dena, Christy. “Show the Code! a Comment on: Citation Footers for Academic Blogging, by Jeremy Douglass.”

    and if no title:

    Dena, Christy. “Comment on: Citation Footers for Academic Blogging, by Jeremy Douglass.”

    I’m modeling this on what I often do for book reviews:

    Montfort, Nick. “Cybertext Killed the Hypertext Star: Review of Cybertext, by Espen Aarseth.”

    These are all ways of dealing with the problems of nested referents and threading….

  4. 4 Christy Dena

    Oh yeah, that would work Jeremy, good!

  5. 5 Jill

    Excellent! Yes, please do show us the code!

  6. 6 craig bellamy

    Thanks so very much for your contribution to the plugin community WRT.



  7. 7 Christy Dena

    On behalf of Jeremy who is quite busy at the moment, thankyou Craig. :)

  8. 8 Jeremy Douglass

    Thanks Craig (and Christy) - this reminds me that at some point (perhaps at the end of the summer) it would be nice to take the next step on this. Also, it might be worth taking some time to think about a related but much harder problem - how to easily fold arbitrary citation data into blog posts as footnotes. Some good work has been started on microformat citation….

  9. 9 Johan

    Seems nice! But I actually ended up here looking for something else, namely, some sort of reference manager for Wordpress. I use Endnote to manage my refs in Word, and it would be great to have the same functionality in Wordpress. Do you by any chance know if the plugin I’m looking for exist?

  10. 10 coach outlet
  1. 1 WRT: Writer Response Theory
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