Tomaiuolo N "Citations and Aberrations" The Searcher Magazine for Database Professionals 15(7): 17-24, July - August 2007.

Eugene Garfield garfield at CODEX.CIS.UPENN.EDU
Thu Dec 13 13:25:26 EST 2007

E-MAIL: tomaiuolon at

TITLE   : Citations and aberrations

AUTHOR  : Tomaiuolo, N.

SOURCE  : The Searcher Magazine for Database Professionals 15(7):17-24,     
          July-August 2007.

AUTHOR ADDRESS: N.Nicholas G. Tomaiuolo, M.L.S.
Bibliographic Instruction Librarian
Central Connecticut State University Library
Reference Department
New Britain, CT 06050

In today's Webbed-up world, the subject of bibliographic citations may seem 
dreary at best.  Writing teachers may love to pick citations apart, but 
creating them is tedious.  Students detest them. Editors' assistants 
routinely suffer nightmares about correcting them.  Researchers depend on 
them and faculty stake their reputations and hopes for recognition on the 
number of times they see theirs at the end of their peers' work.  Most of 
us learned to compose them in elementary school or junior high, yet 
properly constructing bibliographic citations has inexplicably become a 
daunting and bewildering chore, especially in this age of digital research.

What is the primary function of a citation?  As a librarian who has spent 
many hours in the past 20 years decoding the bibliographic anomalies of 
others, I believe citations exist primarily to aid in retrieving the 
referenced materials.  A survey I devised in 2006 and mailed to university 
and community college English professors throughout the U.S. showed that 91 
percent (n=109) agreed with me (only 11 professors disagreed).  While many 
writers concur that retrieval is the main purpose of citing information 
(refs 1,2,3), some authors assert "intellectual debt" (ref4), as well as 
the perils of plagiarism (ref5,6), as the basic missions.  Regardless of 
one's perspective on the raison d'etre, everyone seems to agree that 
properly citing our sources is critical not only to scholars, but also in 
fields such as law.

All researchers and scholars wishing to be published must demonstrate their 
scrupulous knowledge of citation formatting in their field and their strict 
adherence to it.  Otherwise, their slipshod references, along with their 
discoveries, may end up tossed out or returned to them.  Commenting on 
a "disconcerting volume of errors" Rose Mary Carroll-Johnson, current 
editor of Oncology Nursing Forum, wrote "with each year my tolerance for 
this lack of attention to detail has diminished to the point where I have 
taken to sending papers back to authors with a demand that the references 
be formatted correctly ... it is time for authors to accept the 
responsibility for what is really their job."(ref.7)

More information about the SIGMETRICS mailing list