Advice on Documentation, Form, and Style
Or: How to avoid documentation meltdown, embarrassing citations, and less than acceptable academic style.
- Document, document, document! Never assume that source information will be unnecessary for any written assignment, including compositions such as journal entries and reflective essays. Systematically record sources consulted, and conscientiously cite sources used. (Cite in a style consistent with the document and the field of study.)
- Be aware of the ways that voice and authority are represented in written work. Leave no room for speculation about the origin of an idea or the source of an opinion in a discussion.
- In all academic work, understand what constitutes plagiarism. In addition, for written documents which extend beyond the parameters of a course assignment, understand and apply the guidelines for fair use.
- Purchase (or access), review, and consistently consult a recommended style manual or guide. CST/CLU faculty members generally specify the use of Chicago style as the standard. The Thesis Secretaries advise consulting the following:
Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 7th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. Purchase is recommended by the Thesis Secretaries. A print copy is on reserve at Claremont School of Theology Library. A "Turabian Quick Guide" is available at http://www.press.uchicago.edu/books/turabian/manual/index.html.
The Chicago Manual of Style. 16th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. A print copy is on reserve at Claremont School of Theology Library, and a link to the electronic version is on the Library website in the list of electronic resources. A "Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide" is available at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html.
When requiring Chicago style, faculty may stipulate reference list vs. notes-bibliography style for course papers. For DMin projects and PhD dissertations, faculty usually require notes-bibliography style Faculty may also approve the use of APA or SBL style for major papers and dissertations.
- Reference management software can be utilized for exporting/importing files, managing collections of articles, producing bibliographies, and generating citation styles. A wide selection of software is available through libraries or for individual purchase. See "Comparison of Reference Management Software" at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_reference_management_software. RefWorks, Zotero (open source), and EndNote are some of the most frequently used.
Caution: If software is used to generate citations, a writer still must know the principles of documentation and style, and should check software citations against a recommended manual. When citations are taken from multiple electronic sources, a writer should check for consistency of forms. Users also should realize that the quality of software will vary, as well as the timelines for updates.
- The style of written work should conform to accepted academic practices and conventions in the field of study. Consult a manual of choice and give attention to such areas as quotations, names and terms, numbers, tables and figures, abbreviations, and capitalization. A disregard for these considerations, and inconsistencies in use patterns, could impact scholarly credibility.
- Beware of "link rot" and "footnote flight." Links to Web-based resources are disappearing at an alarming rate. If a source has a persistent link that can be imbedded in a citation (a DOI or PURL, for example), this could increase the possibility of future retrieval. In addition, some organizations are creating systems to store/reference digital citations. However, the only sure solution at present is to keep print copies of critical electronic resources.