Sunday, November 27, 2011

Academic social media - citing and referencing expectations

Blogging Street Cred

Students: check what the teacher expects.
Teachers: are your expectations reasonable for the online publishing environment and spelled out?
Me: Try for a *brief* post for once.

Today I was browsing through the assignments and marking criteria in a friend's subject on social networking for information professionals.

YAY: Students would receive marks for their use of one of the social media tools, as an online journal. Excellent, if students are to use social web tools, their use of tools and their capacity to use such tools with increasing professionalism, should count (IMO).

Teachers ought to consider the best ways for students to learn about online publishing (it should be fun, step up gradually over time, and have clear signposts)... and very carefully how to enable that (in a pedagogically sound way) within a subject which requires online posting. One little point in passing: If the course is an introduction to social networking, expectations and marking criteria for a first post should *not* be the same as for final posts.

AND back on topic
Citation and referencing methods are different in online publishing. Teachers of courses that intend to incorporate online publishing should know very well the differences for different types of online tools, should teach them, adapt expectations of assignment content to suit the medium and teach how the students can meet those expectations within assignments in the new medium.

As Wilson [aka morgan] (2007) pointed out, in response to my ponderings (prior to the 6th edition) on how to cite new media in student papers, "All of these citation methods are optimized for printed media - how they spell out the URLs, which is cumbersome and unnecessary in an electronic publication." I agree, in the main, although the degree of truth to that depends what *kind* of electronic publication. (Although, even when submitting to academic publications who will both hyperlink and spell out references to enable printed versions, writers don't have to do the coding themselves).

At an undergraduate level, students are expected to have read widely in scholarly or industry literature and to cite suitable content using an institutionally selected Style. In my LIS courses it has always been with APA style. Yet APA style references should appear with hanging indents. How many novice bloggers have sufficient knowledge of html to produce hanging indents--and are they relevant?

Let's go back to the purposes of initiating students into writing using social media: is one of those purposes to encourage familiarity (and hopefully expertise) that will prepare them for professional applications? For the kinds of use to which your students should be able to put social media after graduation, is academic referencing appropriate, particularly APA? On the one hand academic references are rarely used in blogs for patron audiences; but might be in blogs for inter-professional communication if usually only when cited sources are not online. On the other hand even wikipedia requires references and teaches its users how to enter references appropriately, and you'll note it uses a discrete footnoting system.

ALMOST DONE, but first
The particular online journalling assignment I mentioned above? It could be produced in any of the social media tools.  Can you imagine academic referencing in posts to Facebook?

  • Don't set the bar too high on first posts ... encourage multiple familiarity posts with each showing a new desired attribute to gain comfort with the tool ... prior to the first basic assessable post.  Make its assessable criteria much simpler than final posts.
  • Don't ask boring questions.
  • If you want to see academic citations:
    • give an amount (why should they have to guess?);
    • provide information about and discuss how they are used differently online;
    • choose an online-suitable style;
    • if you're going to insist on APA, consider explicitly waiving the hanging indent;
    • *first* show how you expect to see it--in your own post to each of the tools at which you are accepting assessable posts (not in the closed learning system).
Oops distracted, just before the end: imagining how one might keep and share a learning journal within Second Life which would not be the net taken in or SL stuff sent out--can't do hanging indents in notecards.  And then, what about Twitter, if people can write novels with Twitter, why not a reflective learning journal?
Photo credit:
Blogging Street Cred by Gideon Burton, via Flickr CC:BY-SA-2.0
and, just because I can:


Wilson, M. (2007, June 1). [comment to blogpost: How does one cite a blog post in APA style?]. Retrieved 27 November, 2011 from


  1. Thanks for the example of referencing the comment! I was reading this post and I started wondering who is this Wilson guy? Would you do this the same if you didn't know the name and only the blogging handle, such as explodedlibrary?

  2. Thanks morgan :-) I too get mixed up hearing my own surname. Although my deduction that Wilson was your surname from your Twitter and FriendFeed profiles might have been completely wrong, I believe I once checked it against a paper you shared (happy to be corrected if I was mistaken).

    I think that the name under which a person "pens" their comment is just as (or sometimes more) important, particularly online where a person becomes known by their screennames.

    According to APA, if we can find the writer's real name then we use that - it goes with the academic purposes (over and above credit) of citation; however if no official name is available then we use the screen-name. Whether or not we use the screen-name located with the quoted material or another reliably traced and significant, I don't think APA goes into precisely, but would come back to APA's principles - the most significant of which I think would be to help the reader locate the source.

    In this case, I would have cited you as morgan - lowercase and all. In this case not explodedlibrary because although that is the title of your blog, it is not the name used with the comment.

    Somewhere between the name attached to a piece of writing and a person's real-world name, I can easily imagine might be one or two other identifications that might be more well-known or authoritative or meaningful. If any or all of alternate (and reliably traced) identities are relevant to the point being cited they might be worth mentioning in-text or in a footnote.

    At another level, if a publication is in someway professionally significant, it could be worth attempting to contact the author (whose comment was sufficiently significant to be cited) to ask under which name they would prefer the citation.

    Thus, I guess, I could have included "(who blogs at explodedlibrary)" or "(of explodedlibrary fame)". It might have added a diverting if not strictly correct amusement to recognise "the exploded librarian".


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