Which citation style should you teach?

My sister, who homeschools her children, asked me the following question on FB recently:

Official school teacher question… I think I have told you in the past that the girls have to cite EVERYTHING they do in every subject, bibliographies are required for every paper, no matter the subject. The question I have for you is, they are given the option to use MLA or APA, and now I am learning of the Chicago style. Teacher’s don’t name a preference, so which style, in your opinion, should they use primarily? I am looking for them to memorize whatever style is going to be most used in teh future, not for the one that is necessarily easiest. I do know that one or the other is used primarily for scientific writing, as opposed to literary or other writing. Right now that is about half and half. Just need an expert opinion!

I ended up answering her rather lengthily, so I thought I’d repost it here:

lol, you came to the right place! I wrote a whole chapter in my textbook [Writer/Designer, just finished!] that explains how to figure out which style to use. I’ll send that to you. But, for reference, here’s four major styles, although there are 100s of style guides for specific disciplinary fields out there:

MLA: Created by the Modern Language Association. Only used for literary and some (foreign) language scholarship. Has serious limitations when it comes to citing digital work (go figure!). Privileges “The Text” (a corpus, or body of work) as a static, never-changing entity by using the present tense when introducing quotes from a text, foregrounding the author of a work in the reference, and backgrounding the date of publication. (e.g., it’s perfectly OK to cite a piece of scholarship from 1950 as “current” in MLA style, with “Frederickson says…”). Not very useful/low on the scale of transferability to other styles.

AP: Created by the Associated Press, specifically for newspapers and sometimes magazines (but not scholarly/research journals). Useful for practical and daily writing when you need to cite a source (in an interview style, let’s say) but don’t need or want the citation itself to jumble the text. Foregrounds the limited and costly space of print media in its design (e.g., one space after periods, which everyone but MLA also does, etc.). Useful for non-research-intensive writing to think about how source information can be unobtrusively included.

APA: Created by the American Psychological Association. Used for much scholarship in sciences, social sciences, and some humanities (such as my field). Privileges the scientific, time-sensitive nature of research by making the date of publication prominent in references and using past-tense in quote-introduction verbs, such as: “Ball (2004) said…” Used *much* more than MLA (I swear I don’t know why *anyone* teaches MLA anymore). [Note: Kairos uses a modified form of APA that includes first names of authors — APA doesn’t usually (e.g., “C.E. Ball”) — so as to foreground the gender of researchers. This is important in science and technical academic writing to break down the gender barriers that still exist in these fields–iow, if we can more easily see the first names, we might better notice how women’s research is valued. So, APA doesn’t normally like to notice such things, as in “Science is Objective” (ha!), but there are ways to modify a style to suit your particular needs. (This is what my chapter is about.)

Chicago (Chicago Manual of Style, or CMoS): Created by the University of Chicago Press for its research and literary publications. This is probably the most-used style. There are two forms of CMoS, one that uses footnotes/endnotes (similar to Turabian, if you ever had to use that to write a history paper, with all those ibids and whatnot that I can never remember) and one that is more like APA, with in-text parenthetical citations. I prefer the latter because it’s more familiar to me. If the kids learn Chicago style, they’ll be able to adapt to most anything else. Plus, the Chicago manual (the book itself) is pretty hefty and complete, at around 1800 pages. If you get one of those, it’ll also include chapters on how to format the headers, subheaders, write abstracts, etc. for research papers.

–> Keep in mind that these styles all assume that you’re doing research-based writing for print media. The key to teaching citation styles is to be flexible and teach the kids how to find each of the bits of info they need to fit it into any of the styles. I don’t recommend memorizing any of them. It’s impossible, frankly, as the style guides are TOO LARGE and change every few years. Plus, professional editors don’t memorize this stuff — they learn enough to familiarize themselves and learn when to look something up in the book. That’s my real recommendation.

As a follow-up to that recommendation, I would also recommend reading the following article (cited in APA style since I pulled it from a Kairos reference list 😉

Leverenz, Carrie. (1998). Citing cybersources: A challenge to disciplinary values. Computers and Composition, 15, 185-200.

Before you claim to be the “first” at something, do your research and define your terms.

This morning on FB, one of my mentors, M.A. Keller, prompted me to respond to a colleague’s blog post from the new(ish) digital publisher British Virginia, asking “What are the first open-access, digital academic publishers?” The British Virginia post was in response to Amherst’s recent announcement that they are starting “the first, open-access, digital academic press.” Um, no. No they aren’t. And everyone in rhetoric and composition knows that, but, sadly, no one outside of rhet/comp has any idea. So I took some time this morning to respond to the BV post, in part because — instead of Amherst’s one-fell-swoop statement that doesn’t invite challenge — Joshua Eckhardt of British Virginia opened up the discussion through his post title and concluded the post with the following questions:

This is not to complain that anyone at Amherst College overlooked British Virginia: we had decided to announce nothing until we had actually published something. The point, rather, is to ask what other publishers and projects we are overlooking. What other libraries are involved in publishing originally digital, open-access, peer-reviewed scholarship? Have any of the member institutions of the Library Publishing Coalition published anything that meets these criteria? Lots of libraries have digital repositories, or even a “press,” such as Ball State University Beneficence Press.  Which of them involve blind peer review? Which of them use not just Creative Commons licenses, but “free culture” licenses? Please expose and eliminate our ignorance.

I welcome those questions and provided the following easy, ready (to our field’s) answers. If I’ve gotten any of the memories/details wrong, please let me know in the Comments. Below is a copy of what I posted on Joshua’s post at BV:

Here’s a few answers of how writing studies has long had digital-only presses/publications:

(1) What other libraries are involved in publishing originally digital, open-access, peer-reviewed scholarship?

“Libraries” is unnecessarily limiting. While that’s the path most folks/presses are taking now, it’s a recent change (due to repositories, etc.) from the last 5ish years. Rhet/comp (writing studies) has a two-decade history of publishing “originally digital, open-access, peer-reviewed scholarship” with the following presses/publications, most of which are independent:

  • Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy started publishing in January 1996, and has continuously published since. It is located here: http://kairos.technorhetoric.net (I am editor of this journal)
  • RhetNet started in October 1996, and is archived here: http://wac.colostate.edu/rhetnet/
  • C&C (Computers and Composition) Online was published from 1996-1999 at UT-Austin, then took a hiatus and moved to Bowling Green SU from 2000ish-present. It is currently at http://www.bgsu.edu/cconline
  • Since 1996, the following other online-only journals began. Some still run, all took hiatuses at some point: Writing Across the Disciplines, The Writing Instructor, Enculturation, CCC Online (1st edition; now in its 3rd ed, it is no longer OA). All these started in the late 90s (if I remember correctly). A burst of activity in the mid-2000s has also produced a handful of other journals in this vein, such as Harlot of the Arts.

The above are all journals, but there are also digital-only presses:

  • The WAC Clearinghouse has been publishing OA books and journals since 1997. http://wac.colostate.edu/index.cfm
  • Computers and Composition Digital Press (CCDP), started in 2007ish: http://ccdigitalpress.org/

(2) Which of them involve blind peer review?

Because most of these publications are digital-media-based, not print-liner-put-online, we’ve found that blind review isn’t possible for all sorts of reasons that I won’t go into here (for space). But ALL are peer-reviewed in ways that are MORE rigorous and useful than blind review is. If you want to know more, email me.

(3) Which of them use not just Creative Commons licenses, but “free culture” licenses?

Each publication has their own copyright set-up, but nearly all of them (if I recall correctly) have copyright revert to the authors upon publication, with distribution rights assigned to the publisher. Some use CC, some don’t, some aren’t explicit about it, some allow authors to assign their own, etc. But ALL of these journals/presses are the best standard of OA available.

So, when Amherst says they are the first, I just laugh in incredulity. WAC Clearinghouse is not a university press but they are an academic publisher affiliated with Colorado State and they’ve been publishing OA since 1997! Kairos, as a journal, since 1996! CCDP, which IS affiliated with Utah State University Press, published their first OA book in 2009, but that book was in production by late 2007.


To readers: What others am I missing? I acknowledge glossing over this LONG, RICH history in a few paragraphs, but I’m interested in further writing this up, so please let me know if you have additions you’d like me to address. Further, I’ve limited this review to rhet/comp, which excludes all the less-recent (Vectors Journal) and more recent (JITP, etc.) journals as well as publications that use non-traditional review (MediaCommons, Hybrid Pedagogy, etc.) Maybe I’ll create a chart that breaks these down by features…. Thoughts?

Kairos history with ACW


Although in early years the journal was sponsored by the Alliance for Computers and Writing (Doherty, 1998, doherty3.html), a “non-profit organization committed to supporting teachers at all levels of computer-enhanced, computer-supported, and computer-based instruction” (Alliance for Computers & Writing, 2002, http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~sg7/ACW/index.html).

Our battle with EBSCOhost, or the Infrastructural Value of Scholarship

Every six months or so, Kairos gets an email from EBSCO Publishing, asking us if we’d be a part of their database. I’m sure most scholars are familiar with EBSCOhost, but for those who aren’t, here’s what their website says:

The providers of EBSCOhost, the most-used premium research service in libraries and other institutions worldwide, EBSCO offers a suite of more than 300 full-text and secondary research databases covering all subject areas, levels of research, and user communities – from schools, public libraries and universities, to hospitals, corporations and government agencies. (http://www.ebsco.com/aboutebsco.html)

It’s free to join EBSCO, and then they take care of making sure a journal’s content gets included in as many federated searches as possible. They do this by including a journal’s content into their own databases, which requires two things: (1) The journal has copyright clearance on its published content, so as to be able to turn over the content to EBSCO for re-distribution. (2) The journal sends PDFs of its content to EBSCO for easy distribution. This means more readers, and for some journals, it would mean more subscriptions. But you might already know what’s coming next: For Kairos, it’s a different story. While the journal does retain redistribution rights for everything it publishes, copyright reverts to the authors upon publication. This doesn’t seem to be a problem in having the journal’s work in EBSCO, so that was good news for us. However, PDFs are, well, not a reasonable choice for Kairos authors. Anyone who’s EVER read the journal will know that. Of course, the EBSCO representatives don’t actually read the journals whose editors they contact. They just contact. Which is why every six months Doug and I (and previously James) would get the same email from them.

In the past, Kairos editors have responded to EBSCO’s request by asking them how they would handle our non-PDFable content. At which point we’d never hear from them again. Until six months later when a new rep was assigned our account. We’d get the same request; ask them the same question; and never hear from that person again. Three or four times, I feel this has happened, in the last 5 years, at least.

This time, when I got the email from the new rep, I decided that Doug had gone through enough pain trying to sort this out with them in the past, and I had some free time, so I wrote the rep a loong response that relayed our difficulty at getting the sales reps to respond. And I told her I wasn’t going to be bothered going forward on this project unless she could assure me that we woudn’t get lost down the rabbit hole again. If they couldn’t, in fact, archive our work in their database, then she would *have* to remove Kairos from their contact list until such time as they could accommodate the kind of scholarship it publishes.

Luckily, for whatever reason, she understood and was very accommodating, quickly responding to our queries. Until it got to the point where she had to tell us how we would deliver the journal’s digital media files to their server and how the webtexts would look in their database, at which point she said she’d get back to me in a week. Three weeks later, I emailed her with a “what gives?!” Another week passed, and she emailed first thing on a Monday to say that the editorial team couldn’t “maintain the true look and feel of your website within the EBSCOhost environment.” She was very sorry; and I trusted her sincerity, especially after I’d run her through the wringer with a “don’t tempt us without having a pay-off” series of emails.

The thing is, Kairos would LOVE to be in EBSCO. The journal should be in as many indexes and databases as possible. Any editor in their right mind would like more readers, and thus potentially more authors. That the journal cannot be in EBSCOhost because its infrastructure isn’t set up to handle anything but linear, print-like text represented as PDFs means that it’s either never occurred to them to host anything besides peer-reviewed print scholarship or they just don’t care enough to make a change to that system.

I could bitch about it, and leave it at that. But I’m on a new mission to be more productive about enacting change to such staid systems. The fact is, just like with copyright and Fair Use issues mentioned in the previous post, editors (the collective “We” who publish scholarship) have the ability to act, to make change. Bitching on Facebook, in this case, would neither be professional nor does it make change. Acting in this case meant emailing the rep back and telling her that I hope the editorial team would consider this a challenge to improve and expand their system. Kairos is not, after all, the only journal that publishes nontraditional content. (I sent her a list of similar journals early on, to see if any of them were represented in the system.) There will be more in the future, especially if the Kairos OJS plug-in set takes off. EBSCO could be on the cutting edge here.

Of course, my email response (although well received) won’t mean that EBSCO will make any changes. But it did make me feel better. Made me feel like I’d done something to point out the devaluation of nontraditional scholarship within their system. Even if one more sales rep, one more committee of content-makers at some for-profit conglomeration, knows a little more about scholarly multimedia and the needs of nontraditional journals, then I feel like David is on his way to swinging the rock at Goliath. Still, one journal isn’t enough. Time to work more on that consortium.

Fair Use and Publishing?

On the CELJ listserv (Council of Editors of Learned Journals) this week, an editor asked about how many images she could use in an author’s piece of scholarship analyzing those images. She wanted resources for where to go to learn more about Fair Use. (This is a great step forward based on my familiarity with the list’s previous lack of interest in anything “fair” or “open”. So I was happy to let this be my first response on the list after recently rejoining.

Good advice from lots of folks so far. I’ll chime in and say that I’ve found — in editorial work and teaching about copyright and Fair Use in my digital media & digital publishing classes — that the Center for Social Media’s “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use” set of documents is *highly* useful. They are always adding new documents to the list, but so far, they include

  • Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use
  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video
  • The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education
  • Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry [ooh, this one’s NEW! :)] (http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use/best-practices)

and perhaps the most relevant for this discussion:

  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ Statement of Fair Use Best Practices for Media Studies Publishing


Now, I know we’re not all Cinema and Media Studies folks (I’m not). But Martha’s question borders on this field in that the scholar she’s talking about *needs* the images to make her argument. (And many literature and other scholars do more and more these days.) This last document (and most of them in the list) discusses the four principles of Fair Use extensively and provide case scenarios for how to use media in scholarship and claim it under Fair Use.

(Four principles of Fair Use: http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html
• The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
• The nature of the copyrighted work
• The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
• The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work)

While one respondent here (can’t remember who) said Fair Use is difficult to argue in court, what I would like to add to that statement is that Fair Use is not nearly tested enough in court, so we don’t have a lot of case law to point to. Presses often require use & reproduce permissions to cover their financial butts (so to speak), not because they are interested in the game of allowing scholars to actually do the work of critique we are required to do.

Unfortunately, many times, Fair Use requires us to stand up and push back against the status quo of mega-publishing corporations. That’s not fun for a lot of folks. But small steps, like if you have the ability as editor to revamp your copyright and permissions policies for your journal, will work towards better allowing our authors to do what they need to do.

On a final note, there is overkill when it comes to trying to claim Fair Use. e.g., does the author *really* need all 17 of those images? Or will two or three suffice? This is a rhetorical question (and not in that unanswerable way, as I’m sure y’all know). I mean, what is the rhetorical situation of the piece of scholarship that requires it to need certain copyrighted pieces of “text” in order to make its argument? If the author can justify it, and you can approve that justification without much reading into things, then that might be a good case for Fair Use. But, yeah, there’s no “right” answer here. Practice makes perfect 😉