Archiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2009-04 > 1240282377

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Subject: Re: [TGF] A Better Way to Cite Online Sources
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 2009 21:52:57 -0500
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Mary asked:
>It this better then Mills' QuickSheet Citing Online Historical Resources
Evidence! Style?

Rondina wrote:
>What Mark is proposing is that online sources have a downloadable citation
that follows the humanities style for genealogy software programs to
utilize. I don't see a conflict with the quick sheets. For those that use
these programs, this would be faster. I believe when the citations get too
complicated, the programs will not be able to handle them either. The
ability to manipulate the downloaded citation would be a "must."

Mark (as usual) spotlights a serious need in the field. I think Mary's
question (and umpteen similar ones I've received today) stem from the title
Mark chose. If his video were called "Simplifying Online Source Citations"
rather than "A Better Way to Cite Online Sources," his intent probably would
be clearer. The latter does imply (as Mary infers) a different citation
style, while Mark focuses on mechanism--i.e., simplifying the process of
data entry via automatic downloads.

Mark's vision can happen, IMO. Certainly, many major online journals deliver
automatic citations. However, Rondina points to the underlying problem: the
complexity of the citations. Data providers such as Ancestry, Footnote,
Scotland's People, ProQuest, etc., have such a tremendous array of source
types, some of which can be simply cited (the situation currently existing
with those journal articles) and some of which are very complex.

Consequently, Rondina's point about "the ability to manipulate the
downloaded citation," is important. The extent to which that automation
yields satisfactory results will vary from company to company; and the
results will be inconsistent, depending upon who "interprets" what should be
cited. Even within the same company, the volume of databases may mean that
different individuals are doing the source-writing for different databases,
and the results will be different. Some who are highly skilled researchers
and writers will recognize the reasons why citations need to include pieces
of information critical to the analysis process, while less experienced
citation-writers might view the same detail as inconsequential.

For well-established companies such as Ancestry with its 27,000+ databases,
catch-up is also a problem. "Source data" (but not citations) have been
composed for those databases across more than a decade, with quite
inconsistent results. It could take years for a full-time person to go into
each database, study its quirks, and "standardize" the source data into
conventional citations that meet analytical as well as identification needs.
Optimistically, the new _QuickSheet: Citing Databases and
Images_ should help that one company in that process, but the catch-up will
still take a greater expenditure of staff time and money than many companies
may want to invest. I suspect they'll do that catch-up only if newer
companies adopt Mark's recommendation and the older companies then feel the
pressure to compete.


Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

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