Citing My Sources

As a middle-school English teacher, I always taught my students to cite their sources, give
proper attribution, and never give the impression that someone else’s
idea is your own.
A new wrinkle in this is giving credit to someone in the blogsphere for a tweet on Twitter or a post or comment on a blog.
When I
send out a tweet or write up a post, I try to link to
the original source. But with the avalanche of information coming at me, I find it nearly impossible to track. Plus, current
thinking is that with many people now using Creative Commons licensing,
writing and photos will be used all over the web, mashed, stretched,
re-worked, and re-vamped. I know I’ve found many photos with no
attribution (and I’ve done it, too, when I forget to go back to copy
and paste). If you take the photo from that post, do you give the secondary user
Early this morning, I first saw the story about the student jailed in Egypt using Twitter to reach out for help on a post by Michael Arrington on Tech Crunch, or was it Chris Brogan’s site? I’m not even sure anymore since it also popped up at least 10 times
on different Twitter accounts as first-time tweets and many other blogs
during the day. If I decided to write about it later, I would have had
a difficult time trying to remember where I first saw the reference.
(And I know and remember the old, "if it’s mentioned in five or more
sources, you don’t need to cite it…but go with me here.)
times I see tweets and posts about reviews for videos or applications
I’ve already tried. So if I choose to write about them later, whom do I
credit? Or do I, if I’ve stumbled upon them myself but have also read
someone else’s review? What about referencing comments on a blog? What if the comments have moved to another blog? I’m not talking link love, here. I’m talking old-fashioned, getting the attribution right.
The conversations about how to sustain archives of digital information are also fascinating, given that information may not always be with us in the existing format.
"How do we archive information when the technology to read it, and indeed the information itself, changes so fast?" asks Josh Catone on The Read Write Web.
past few days, I’ve read several posts about giving credit where credit
is due. Some folks want to be recognized for breaking the story first,
even though it’s darn near impossible for anyone to know who said what
first. And what about RSS feed sharing? Who owns the information? Does it matter anymore.
Frankly, the only reason I care is that we’ve been teaching our students the importance of proper attribution forever. When I work with students and teachers, I want to be thoughtful in supporting their research and citing of sources in however they decide to present, publish, write, or digitize. Shouldn’t we all be saying the same thing?
Ah, life was easier when I could pick up a book, grab the information, and follow MLA style.
Even Robert Scoble weighed in on this, saying:
era when bloggers could control where the discussion of their stuff
took place is totally over.This is a trend that the best bloggers
should embrace. Me? I follow wherever the conversation takes me.
As someone else wrote: steal my content please."

anyone is developing new guidelines for their students, I would love to
know. How do you cite Twitter, for example? I couldn’t find anything on
MLA when I looked. Carolyn? Anyone? Do we even bother to cite it?
For all I know, someone has already written this post. I just can’t find it.
Just thinking, here….

Image: ‘At Odds – Day 27

4 thoughts on “Citing My Sources

  1. Your questions have me intrigued, and I agree that locating the “first source” sometimes is circuitous or near impossible!
    And I would also agree that MLA doesn’t necessarily keep up with online formats or how to cite them as fast as it should.
    My thinking regarding Scoble’s remark and Creative Commons are these:
    Not every blogger or photographer may agree with Scoble’s position on this.
    Creative Commons does give permissions that relate to attributions.
    (See Flickr–noncommercial/attribution or noncommercial/no derivatives/attribution, etc.)
    Academic scholarship still requires citations and attributions.
    So–it seems in the best interest of our students to include a duality in our teaching about this.
    I think we should teach them about Creative Commons and that notions of copyright and sharing content are changing(as they well know).
    But part of Creative Commons and blogging and using many other online tools is also a trust and a collaborative sharing. So I think it’s significant to honor that by citing the creator.
    Third, since “academic” scholarship will likely continue to have the expectation that works are cited, and also it is a huge favor to a reader who is trying to backtrack through research to find original works, I think we need to stress the importance of citing the source.
    As for citing blogs, I found this for you–and if you read down, there’s a reference to a new book coming out that I realize I should buy for my library, so thanks for raising the issue in the first place ;)
    And this is only semi-related, but an interesting article on using twitter in academia, which I had seen before but forgotten!
    Thanks for sparking my thoughts with these questions!
    Sometimes I think it was easier to pretend to teach when we could pretend rules were hard and fast, than now when we can acknowledge the fluidity and changing nature of information use!

  2. Does it really matter where the original source of the information is? If everyone followed the rules of attribution and referenced where THEY acquired their information then there is a digital trail that, if necessary, can eventually be traced back to the original source. If it is attributed to an echo of the original source, it should be considered valid if there is a valid attribution therin.
    Am I wrong?

  3. Hmmm, good question David. I don’t know. We’ve always taught primary and secondary sources, but with the changing face of the internet–even disappearing information–I wonder what’s appropriate. Some attribution, of course, is necessary. But how far should we dig to find the primary? I’m going to continue to ponder this, too.

  4. For all we know somebody in the 14th century was the first to say, “To twitter or not to twitter. That is the question.”

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