11 March 2005

A Citation System For Bloggers

"He who cites his source, brings deliverance to the world." Mishna, Avot. 6.

In the wake of Dan Rather's undoing by bloggers, there have been many attempts to call into question the integrity of bloggers. E.g., Nightline, ABC-TV, 8 March 2005. Bloggers, the argument goes, can make baseless assertions and can assert facts relying on sources that no one can double check. Nightline. A sourceless rumor can traverse the blogospere many times before the true facts are awake, much less putting their shoes on. And even when bloggers try to credit sources, the manner is so slip-shod as to be unintelligible. Then there are those of us who blog more for the sake more of scholarship than of being news hounds. We bloggers, especially those of us who enjoy scholarship, might like to cite sources liberally; and we try to do. We also like to quote--or would like to quote--each other's blogs. But how to do so?

I think we need a system for citing sources, and each other, that approaches uniformity, but without being so rule-laden that one spends more time worrying about how to cite a source than about how to write one's blog. I proffer the following system of citation to the blogging world.

Because the method I am adapting is inspired, in large part, by the system used by lawyers, as outlined in The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, (Harvard Law Review Association), I call this The Blogger's Bluebook.

Should you care to do so, please cite this source as "The Blogger's Bluebook," (Philologous Lector, ed., March 2005), at Philologous Lector, "A Citation System For Bloggers," Philologous, 11 March 2005, http://www.philologous.blogspot.com.

The Blogger's Bluebook
A Manual Of Citation For Bloggers

1. Single Volume Book

1a. single author:

Author Name (i.e.,John Doe, not Doe, John), Book Title (helpful information about the source, year of publication), page number(s).

Ex: Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (1969), 13-22.

Note that the book title is neither italicized nor underlined. The reasons for this are: (1) the format of citation is not as important as the accuracy of the information, and the appropriateness of the blogger's choice of the cited source. (2) To save time. In writing blogs, time is usually of the essence and can be lost worrying about and acutally doing formatting, especially in writing html tags every time one wishes to cite a book. If the title of a work is not in quotations, then let it be understood as being the title of a book, or a magazine, or journal.

1b. two authors

Ex: William Flint Thrall and Addison Hibbard, A Handbook To Literature (1936), 150.

1c. more than two authors

Ex: John W. Doe, others,...

2. Multi-volume Book:

Author's Name, Volume number Title (helpful information about the source, year of publication), page number(s).

Ex 1: Francis Schaeffer, Art And The Bible, 2 Complete Works (1982), 395.

Ex 2: Francis Turretin, 1 Institutes of Elenctic Theology (Dennison, ed., Giger, tr., 1992), 182. (See also intructions for classical texts below.)

Ex3: Charles Hodge, 1 Systematic Theology (reprinted 1986), 41.

Note that the volume number comes before volume title. There are three reasons for this: (1) to signal immediately that reference is made to a multi-volume work; and (2) to distinguish between citations of multi-volume works and classical texts (q.v., below); (3) this method resembles that use by scripture (e.g., 2 Samuel 3:4).

3. Classical Texts

Author Name, Title of Work (helpful information about the source, year of publication if applicable or known), book number:chapter number (or other specific location), paragraph number

Ex 1: Augustine, Confessions (Jones, ed., Smith, tr., 1959), 3:4, para. 6.

Ex 2a: Plato, Republic, 517b.

Ex 2b: Plato, Republic, 517b, in Complete Works (John M. Cooper, ed., G.M.A. Grube, tr., 1997), 1135.

Ex3: Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Topic 3, Question 3, para. IX.

4. Print periodical

Author name, "Article Title", Volume number Journal Name Issue number (Month Year), referenced page number.

Ex: Kenneth Perszyk, "Molinism And The Consequence Argument: A Challenge," 20 Faith And Philosophy 2 (April 2003), 137.

Ex: Damon Linker, "Philosophy And Tyranny," First Things 119 (January 2002), 42.

Note: the page numbers refer only to the exact page(s) of the article being cited. The page of the journal that the article begins is ommited because the article can be found, once the journal is located, simply by referring to the journal's table of contents.

5. Online sources

5a. Blogs

Ex: Author/blogger's name( if known), Article title (if any), name of blog, date posted, http://www.url.com/org/edu, etc

Ex: Andrew McIntyre, "A Helpless Cry From a Vile Heart," Dead Men's Voices, 27 February 2005, http://www.deadmensvoices.blogspot.com.

5b. Personal homepage

Name of person, Type of page (if any), Month and Year cited, http://www.url.com etc.

Joe Smith, Homepage, May 2001, http://www.someplaceonline.com/~joesmith06.

5c. Online periodical articles

Author name, "Article Title", Periodical Name, Date, url.

Ex: Rich Lowry, "Soak The Rich," National Review Online, 11 March 2005, http://www.nationalreview.com/lowry/lowry200503110746.asp...

Why not just link to the site where the source is located? Quite simply, not all bloggers are equally adept at linking. And it can be time consuming to link. Our goal is the give readers the ability quickly and effectively to identify, locate and appraise sources for themselves. But at the same time, many of us who blog have limited time to blog, much less to spend creating links to sources we cite. At least, providing the url allows readers to cut and paste the url into their browsers. However, if one does successfully link to a web page, one may exclude an in-text citation of the url.

6. Television/Radio broadcast

6a. Television Series (including newsmagazines)

"Episode/Segment Name"(if known), Series Name, Network Name (or Station call sign and channel and city) Broadcast Date (if availiable or relelvant).

Ex: "Avengers", Bonanza, NBC.

Ex: "In The Grip of Fear," 48 Hours, CBS, 8 May 2003.

Ex. of TV News broadcast: Eyewitness News, KKTV-11, Colorado Springs, Co., 7 April 2001.

6b. Radio talkshow

Identification of segment (if applicable), Name of talk show, Station call sign, frequencey, city, date of broadcast (if known, available or relevant)

Ex1: Interview with Thomas Sowell (2d hour), Rush Limbaugh Show (Walter E. Williams, guest-hosting), KOA 850-AM, Denver, Co., 7 March 2005.

Ex2: Interview with Governor Owens (3d hour), Mike Rosen Show, KAO 850-AM, Denver, Co., 28 February 2005;

What we need is simply any iformation which would enable the reader to identify and (if possible) to locate the source and utilize it himself.

7. Recordings

Name of artist, "Item Name", Tape/CD/Album title, (Label and year of release, if they are known)

Ex: Rush, "Closer To The Heart," A Farewell to Kings, (Mercury Records 1977); or, even perhaps Rush, "Closer To The Heart."

8. Legislative Acts

Many of us bloggers like to discuss or share news about legislation, especially pending legislation. Citation should tell us something about the bill/amendment, its name or description of purpose, its senate and/or house bill/amendment number, and where readers can locate it to read it for themselves.

Ex: Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (Introduced in House), HR 658, at http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:H.R.685:

Ex: Senate Amendment "To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage", S.AMDT.44, at http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:S.A.44:, which amends "A bill to amend title 11 of the United States Code, and for other purposes," S.256, at http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN00256:

9. The Bible

Book title Chapter.verse (Version)

Ex: 1 Corinthians 3.6-7 (NKJV, or UBS 4TH, if citation is to the Greek text).

10. UNKNOWNS (i.e., to the blogger)

If we do not know something about our source, we should indicate that in the citation. I recommend:

10a. ~auth or auth unk if the author is unknown
10b. ~wk or wk unk if the name of the work we wish to cite is unknown to us
10c. ~loc or loc unk if we do not know, in the source we have cited, the exact location we wish to cite
10d ~ed or ed unk if the editor is unknown
10e ~tr or tr unk if the translator is unknown
10f ~date or date unk if the date is unknown
10g ~url or url unk if the url is unknown

Note that, for our purposes, "unknown" does not mean that no one knows the item. It means only that the blogger does not know, or cannot presently recall, the item. Note also that, whatever we know or do not know about a source, we should provide as much information about a source as we can.


Once a source has been cited in a citation sentence, subsequent citations should be as brief as possible. Use of words like "ibid" (or "id", for lawyers) should be avoided: the reader has to scroll back up on the page to see what the "ibid" is referring to. And we are trying to make things easier for the reader. Therefore subsequent citations should include Author last name, Abbreviated title, page number. If for example, one has cited Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (1969), 13-22, all subsequent citations could appear as: Schaeffer, God, 55. If, for example, one has already cited Andrew McIntyre, "A Helpless Cry From a Vile Heart," Dead Men's Voices, 27 February 2005, http://www.deadmensvoices.blogspot.com/, all subsequent citations should appear as McIntyre, "Helpless Cry".


Now that we have something of a system of source citations, how, exactly do we cite our sources? Ought we to try to use footnotes? Citations should be in-text citation sentences (for initial citations) or clauses (for subsequent citations), which follow immediately after the relevant sentence in your blog. The reason is a footnote is cumbersome as a citation apparatus. This is especially the case when one is reading a web page. One may like to know immediately what source an author is citing; having to scroll down to the end of a page, or wait until reaching the end, is not very convenient. True, the blogger could link to the footnote so that readers have only to click on the link in order to read the footnote. But our interest as bloggers is to utilize a method of citation that is convenient for both blogger and reader, especially in terms of time spent writing a web page which would include source citations and in terms of reading such pages and being able immediately to identify, locate and appraise sources.


Signals are words or terms that give your reader additional information about the sources you are citing. Signals tell the reader about the type and degree of support your sources provide. For example, some sources provide indirect support for an assertion. Some sources provide general background rather than direct support for a specific proposition.

Signals are not always necessary. You do not need a signal if your source directly supports the preceding text, or to identify the source of a direct quotation.

You should use a signal in all other situations.

The choice of signal depends entirely on context. What are you hoping to convey to the reader? The choice of signal is not related to whether your citation is initial or subsequent (i.e., full or abbreviated). The frequency with which you use signals will vary from one project to the next, according to the type of support you find in a particular source.


E.g.: indicates that the source is an example from a number of sources that stand for the same proposition or argument, or that agree to the facts as you have stated them.

See: means this source implicitly supports your position or argument, or agrees with the facts as you have stated them. What you are conveying to the reader is that your source doesn’t say anything about the subject you are discussing and doesn’t directly say the same thing that you are saying, but clearly supports your argument, or the proposition you have just stated, or agrees with the facts as you have stated them.

See, e.g.: means much the same thing as "see" but indicates that the source(s) you cite is one of many which support your position.

Cf.: means this source supports your argument, or the proposition you have just stated, by analogy. What you are conveying to the reader is that your source provides an analogy that supports your position in some way (you may need to offer a parenthetical explanation of how).

See also: means this source [or these sources] also stands for the proposition you have just stated or the argument you are making, or agrees with the facts as you have stated them. It is typically used after you have cited one or more directly supporting sources.

See generally: means this authority provides helpful background information related to your argument.


Ryan M Scott said...

I copied your posting to my hard drive, it's a good idea to cite things in a similar way as in a book or professional paper.

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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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