Sunday, February 20, 2011

Citations: Styling vs. Verifying

I have been styling and verifying a lot of citations lately for a particularly heady document, and it occurred to me that it might benefit my clients to fully understand the differences between these two tasks.


Styling citations (whether they be in footnotes, endnotes, a bibliography, or a works-cited list) is different from verifying them. When I style your citations, I'm making them conform to a particular style guide. For instance, the folks at Oxford University Press want the citations in their books styled a certain way, while the Journal of the American Medical Association has its own unique citation style, too. When I style citations for a client, then, I'm just preparing them for publication and making sure no elements are missing from them.

Verifying citations means that I am checking them for errors. I find the original document's information in one of the databases to which I am subscribed and usually am able to view the cover to check for title, subtitle, and author names. I check page ranges of chapters by looking at the table of contents for each book. Or I search for the journal article through a database and verify its information that way.

So when I verify citations for your document, you can count on my checking the accuracy of each of these elements:

• book, article, and journal titles (including spelling and other details of the title),
• subtitles (adding them if missing),
• author names (as they are listed on the cover),
• publishing companies and their locations,
• dates of publication,
• page ranges of book sections such as chapters, and
• page ranges of articles within a journal or other periodical.

If I'm ever not able to verify one of these, I will clearly mark it on your document so that you'll know it wasn't verified.

What I don't verify are page numbers of quotations you pull into your document. So be careful to check these yourself. I also can't verify the accuracy of most quotations, so if a quotation looks squirrelly to me—that's Southern for not quite right—I might flag it for you to look up again from your source and double check. Lastly, when I verify a publication date for a book, I'm verifying that this book was in fact published, in some edition somewhere, in that year. There's no way for me to know, naturally, if you wrote down the date wrong ("1967" rather than "1976") and so the page number of the quotation would apply to a different edition.