If You’re a Researcher

I just read a terrific post about research on James Harbeck’s Sequiotica blog: https://sesquiotic.com/2019/07/12/just-for-reference/. He offers several common-sense suggestions for making research references (endnotes and footnotes) more useful.

I’m going to add a comment to his wise advice about avoiding ibid (a term meaning “the same as the previous reference”). If you’re less than – say – 100 years old, you shouldn’t be using ibid. Why make yourself sound like a dinosaur?

Here are two more suggestions:

  • If you’re quoting from someone’s collected works, please give the name of the essay. It’s not much help to tell me that you’re quoting from Vol. 3, p. 298 of the Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson if I don’t happen to own that collection. Taking a few seconds to include the title (“The Over-Soul” or “Self-Reliance”) makes it a lot easier for me to track down your quotation.
  • Make it easy for readers to match your endnotes with your sources. Let’s say I’m reading your chapter “New Beginnings,” and I want to look at the source for your endnote 15. I go to the back of the book. And what I find are endnotes for Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and so on. There’s no heading “New Beginnings.” So I have to thumb back to find out that “New Beginnings” is actually Chapter 3.Have pity on your readers! Include both the chapter number and title in your endnotes. It’s such a simple thing to do – and it’s so helpful.

green dinosaur


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