As librarians we are expected to write and we do write. Our writing can take many forms – our report after attending an event, a report for our organisation, a paper for a conference or even an article for a journal. Through our writings, we are sharing our knowledge, skills and experiences. We are adding to the corpus of knowledge on library and information science.
Whilst we are writing, we will definitely be referring to a number of sources. When writing a report after attending an event, we would be referring to the programme book or even the speeches delivered during the event. When we are writing a proposal or a report for our organisation, we would be referring to sources related to our proposal as well as statistics to strengthen statements that we make in our writings. When we write a conference paper or a journal article, we would definitely be using various sources. All these sources will add value to our writings and it would also allow our readers to refer to the sources that we use. All these sources will be listed as a Bibliography and/or References at the end of our writing. What is the difference between a Bibliography and References? A Bibliography is a list of sources that we refer to but is not mentioned or cited in our writing. References is a list of sources that we actually mention or cite in our writing. This is known as in-text citation.
In-text citation is when we refer to a source in our writing or when we paraphrase from the source. So what is paraphrasing? Paraphrasing refers to the process where we write out what we have read from a source document using our own words. For example, we read a 6-page article and we come across a statement that we want to include in our writing. So we have to understand what the statement means and then rewrite it in our own words. When we want to refer to a number of source documents, we have to read, analyse and synthesise the source documents.
There are two types of in-text citations, namely narrative and parenthetical.
Narrative citation is when we write the author’s surname as part of our sentence. After the author’s surname, we have to insert the date of the publication in brackets.
Example A: Edzan (2020) noted that media and information literacy is a term favoured by UNESCO.
Example B: When looking at the various definitions of media and information literacy, Edzan (2020) noted that media and information literacy is a term favoured by UNESCO.
Example C: When looking at the various definitions of media and information literacy, it is a term favoured by UNESCO as noted by Edzan (2020).
There is a tendency for some of us to write continuously as in Example A. However if this style is used as a beginning for every sentence, it affects the flow of our writing and can be quite tedious reading for your audience. So try using a combination of Example A, Example B and Example C. For Example B, we can write a sentence and insert the author’s surname in the middle of the sentence. For Example C, we can write a whole sentence and place the author’s surname at the end of the sentence.
In parenthetical citation, we place the author’s surname and year in brackets. The author’s surname is separated from the year by a comma ( , ). For example, (Smith, 2019).
Example A: UNESCO favours the use of the term media and information literacy (Smith, 2019).
Example B: UNESCO favours the use of the term media and information literacy (Smith, 2019) as opposed to IFLA.
We can place a parenthetical citation in the middle or at the end of a sentence. In Example A, we place the parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence.
|Author type||Narrative citation||Parenthetical citation|
|One author||Smith (2020)||(Smith, 2020)|
|Two authors||Smith and Jones (2020)||(Smith & Jones, 2020)|
|Three or more authors||Smith et al. (2020)||(Smith et al., 2020)|
|Organization||UNESCO (2020)||(UNESCO, 2020)|
Table 1 shows examples of how we should write out single and multiple authors as well as organisations as parenthetical and narrative citations. Take note that of the use of the word and in narrative citation for two authors and the use of & in parenthetical citation for two authors. The reasoning behind this is that in narrative citation we are using the authors’ surnames in a sentence and the use of the word and instead of & is more appropriate.
|Missing element||What to do||Parenthetical citation|
|Author unknown||Use source title.||(Source title, 2020) Example: (How to sell, 2020)|
|Date unknown||Write “n.d.” for “no date”.||(Smith, n.d.)|
|Page unknown|| 1. use an alternative locator (example = Chapter) or|
2. leave out the page number
| 1. (Smith, 2020, Chapter 3) or|
2. (Smith, 2020)
At times we come across sources that have missing components (Table 2). When a source that we are referring to does not have an author, we would then cite the title of the source. In the example above, the title of the source document is How to sell. Therefore we cite it as (How to sell, 2020). The source title has to be in italics. When we come across a source document that has no date, we use the abbreviation n.d. which stands for no date. When we are citing source documents, it is advisable to put in the page which we are referring to after the author’s surname and date of publication. This will make it easier for our readers to locate the exact page of what we are referring to in the source document. But most of us tend to omit this. But like I mentioned before, it is good practice to do so. If we want to include the page title in our in-text citation but the page number is missing, then use the next best option, the chapter number. But if the chapter number is not available, then we can leave out the page number.
Using Short Quotations
When we are writing, we would encounter moments when it is difficult for us to paraphrase. We also feel that when we paraphrase, the context of the sentence is lost. Therefore we feel that it is best for us to place the original sentence in our writing. This is referred to as quotations. There are two types of quotations – short and long quotations.
Short quotations are those with 40 words or less. When using short quotations in our writings, we place the quotations within “ “ and put the author’s surname, date of publication and page number in brackets at the end of the quote.
Example A: Sullivan (1976) stated that “typically, a library association’s publishing program starts in a small way, with a newsletter or some modest means of communication to its members”.
Example B: Effective teams can be difficult to describe because “high performance along one domain does not translate to high performance along another”(Ervin et al., 2018, p.470).
Example A shows the use short quotation in narrative citation and Example B is for parenthetical citation.
Using Long Quotations
Block quotations are those with more than 40 words. The convention for writing out a block quotation as required by the APA style is as follows:
- Start on a new line and indent the whole block 0.5 in. from the left margin.
- Double-space the entire block quotation.
- Do not add extra space before or after it.
- If there are additional paragraphs within the quotation, indent the first line of each subsequent paragraph an additional 0.5 in.
- Either (a) cite the source in parentheses after the quotation’s final punctuation or (b) cite the author and year in the narrative before the quotation and place only the page number in parentheses after the quotation’s final punctuation.
- Do not add a period after the closing parenthesis in either case.
However, personally, I do not recommend using block quotations in your writings since it will take up a lot of your word count. Only use this if it is absolutely necessary.
I hope this post will help those who are writing for the very first time. There are about 15 different types of citation styles (Table 3). There are also numerous guides available on the Web that provides instructions on how to use the various citation styles.
|3. AMA||Medical sciences|
|4. APA||Social sciences, Education, Engineering|
|5. APSA||Political science|
|6. Chicago A||History|
|7. Chicago B||Physical, Natural and Social sciences|
|8. Harvard||Humanities, Social sciences|
|12. NLM||Medical sciences|
|14. Turabian||Business, History, Fine arts|
|15. Vancouver||Medical sciences|
In this post, I am using the APA Style since it is a style we use for LIS publications.