Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Future of Documenting Research: A Theory

I have a theory--and it might be an unusal theory for an English teacher to have--but I truly believe that before I reach retirement age the world of documentation styles (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc) will change completely. As writing becomes more and more a digital enterprise, documenting research will also become more digital in nature. Eventually, people will stop using in-text citations along with lists of "Works Cited" and instead use a more sophisticated form of the hyperlink we all know and love and use today. I'm not the only one who thinks this, and the rest of the academic world hasn't caught up with us yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if, by the time many of you are in graduate school, my prophecy will have come true... (You be sure to let me know when that happens! And until then, when you're doing a formal research project, you'll have to cite your sources the "old school" way!)

Recently, a post by a blogger that I follow featured a new web-tool called "Citebite" that quickly and easily creates for its users, not a hyperlink, but a deep link, a link that takes the reader who clicks on it directly to the quoted passage, no matter how far down the page it appears or how deeply buried in the website it is. It's pretty cool. (And there's even a bookmarklet you can add to your browser toolbar.) There are lots of ways to use to it, as Traci Gardner points out on her blog. Let me show you how it works.
Here's what CiteBite looks like: You paste the text you want to deeplink to into the "quote" box, and then
you paste the URL (in this case, the URL for the specific blog post, not the entire blog) into the "Source"
box. Then you hit the "Make Citebite" button.
If students wanted to quote a passage from one of my blog posts, for instance, they could easily include a link to my entire blog (which isn't very useful to the reader) or to the exact post from which they quoted (which would be a bit more useful), but here's a link to a specific passage from a specific post in which Nygaard discusses the value of poetry, and that's really useful! (Do you see how I "hid" the link behind a part of my sentence which paraphrases the text I linked to?) Students could also provide the text, properly contained within quotation marks, putting the deep link behind it, like this:  
In a blog post entitled "Frozen Flowers, Living Poems," Nygaard says, "And you never know--the poem you read in class today (even if you don't now understand it or see any value in it) might help you in the future to deal with loss, to understand pain, to make sense of your experiences.
Click on that linked quotation above, and you go directly to the passage in its original context on my blog. That's pretty sweet. It makes it much easier for the reader to see exactly where the quotation came from. And because the sentence containing the quotation includes the author's name and the title of the post, and also indicates that the quotation comes from a blog post, there'd be no real need for an in-text parenthetical reference. The reader can find out everything he or she wants to know about the original source by clicking the deep link. I can also use the CiteBite link in my list of Works Cited (see the very bottom of this post) so that the WC entry also directs my readers to the exact location of the cited text! (Obviously, this would only work if I was quoting one single passage from a source.)
Here's the result of making the CiteBite: I'm provided with a link which I can apply to the quoted text in
my project, and CiteBite shows me, in the window, where that link will take my readers.
Of course, CiteBite only seems to work for quotations that come from webpages. I've tried using it to pull deep links from articles in the online databases available through the ELM Portal, but it doesn't work (I get an error message). Also be aware that sometimes the CiteBite server gets overwhelmed and shuts down; sometimes, it's also rather slow. Still, I think tools like CiteBite are a sign of things to come...  I plan to ask you to use CiteBite in an upcoming blog assignment. (CiteBite would also be useful for folks planning to do some Capstone Project blogging.)

[Update:  I've found another such tool, called that works just like CiteBite, except it seems to be a bit more stable, less glitchy. Try it out!]

Work Cited
Gardner, Traci. "Take a Bite Out of the Web with CiteBite." Web log post. Bedford Bits: Ideas for Teaching
Composition. Bedford / St. Martin's, 6 July 2011. Web. 6 Feb. 2015.

Nygaard, Susan. "Frozen Flowers, Living Poems." Web log post. Dr N's Blog. 11 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Jan. 2015. 

(WC entries created with EasyBib.)

1 comment:

  1. I agree - this is our future and the sooner the better, I say! Love CiteBite if it does what it promises and look forward to the same sort of tool for other resources. Great news.