Tomorrow’s class will be about citation techniques. Again. Instead of me doing the standard old-fashioned teaching routine (explain it for 45 minutes using voice and overheads, post examples for them to read and then assume the knowledge was successfully transmitted from brain to brain – big surprise: it wasn’t), tomorrow the students will be doing the work. Small groups, specific problems to solve, suggestions of possible places to look for the necessary information.

One problem will obviously be to figure out how to cite a game, based on Chicago style but perhaps with input from DiGRA’s game reference project and from MobyGames database of infrormation about games, dates, producers, and with a consideration of who or what to put where you’d put the author of a book or the director of a movie. I think the whole class can deal with that problem, each group tackling a different section of it.

We defintely need to practice citing websites too. Sometimes poor citation technique does a student such a disservice: I was really skeptical about the source listed in one student’s bibliography as “Art: history” (, which the student proposed using as a basic for understanding the history of The site is a list of sites with no further information – unless you go up a few levels (just take the last bit of the URL off) and see that it’s actually part of a course web site at Calarts, made by Nathalie Bookchin, who’s one of the absolutely leading theoreticians and practitioners. Figuring out a way of citing that website that actually shows its legitimacy despite its not being published by Routledge or MIT Press or something is an obvious problem students need to solve. I’ll tell you what the students suggest tomorrow.

A final task I’ll be setting will include new ways of searching: Go to, search for a word, concept, name or title that’s important in the project you’re researching, find a book that discusses it that you weren’t aware of, assess whether the reference is interesting to you and write a proper citation of that book, with page numbers.

Then discuss whether that’s good enough academically: citing a book when you’ve never actually touched it, only seen an image of a few pages of it at amazon.

I’m also going to have to work out how to help students remember when to use italics, when quotation marks, how to put a citation in the text. I had completely forgotten how mysterious all these things are when they’re new to you.

4 thoughts on “teaching citations

  1. Mark Bernstein

    Figuring out a way of citing that website that actually shows its legitimacy despite its not being published by Routledge or MIT Press or something is an obvious problem students need to solve.

    I don’t thin it’s the job of the citation to credential the source. We do this in the main text.

    A. B. Clump, a leading proponent of the Widget Theory, observed [Clump 79}…

    Though Widget Theory has attracted a range of followers — the enthusiastic but erratic Clump [Clump 79], the duller but more reliable Smodget (see [Blair 92[), and the brilliant though little-known Whelk [Dewey & Rose 98, ch. 3]

    Only the most inexperienced students will make the mistake of citing a source whose citation patently discredits itself. You learn in your cradle that you never cite the Encyclopedia Brittanica or Cliff’s Notes, right?

    This is interesting because the craft of placing citations in context is also the craft of weaving links smoothly and meaningfully into exposition….

  2. Deena

    The other difficulty is the transient nature: You need to cite the date accessed. This becomes odd as you revisit the citation as you re-edit the piece
    (URL name, author accessed DATE DATE DATE DATE DATE..) this is not a comfortable solution for governnment citations as people need to go back. What we have ended up doing is caching the site from internet explorer, putting it on a disk, and shoving it into the administrative record. Thank Someone that no one has yet suggested printing the thing out yet.

  3. Norman

    Thanks for providing me one more advantage of being old — I don’t have to cope with this.

  4. Timbu :: Musings

    “jill/txt incites web site cite sightings” I have always had questions about how to properly cite web stes. Unfortunately, I still do.

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