Meaningful Citations

Good Points to Follow

Mary-Claire van Leunen explains the art of writing meaningful citations (and other issues) in her excellent book A Handbook for Scholars, Oxford University Press, 1992, A Handbook for Scholars - Victoria library Catalogue.

She points out that citations have a number of functions:

  • Citations opens the door to further information and independent judgement.
  • Citations keep you honest.
  • Citations means you don't have to introduce old notions, just include your citations that point you to where they are introduced or described.
  • Citation can be used to strengthen your argument.
  • Citation is courtesy of scholars.

She also discusses what makes a meaningful citation, some highlights:

  • Avoid brackets without context.
  • Let the information and emotion hidden between citations out into the open. Honest. Instead of "Furbot [21] identifies ..." try giving some context "Furbot, writing in the VUW Journal of Phrenology [21], described for the first time the computer scientist convulation ...".
  • Avoid things like "it has been said", "see [x] for a further discussion".