Citations: Input vs. Output



4 September 2014

Citations exist in two stages: working notes and final form. In our working notes (input stage), we should include all details and descriptions necessary to

  • identify the source,

  • retrieve the source, and

  • evaluate the reliability of the data from that source.

When we reach the production stage (output), our final format may be edited to conserve space. It will likely conform to the dictates of a professor, a journal, or a publishing house.

In this regard, Evidence Explained differs radically from most citation manuals.

  • Traditional guides emphasize output—the bare essentials needed, in the writing stage, to identify sources while minimizing publication costs.

  • Evidence Explained focuses upon input, identifying the information researchers should record in the research stage—not just the basics for an eventual identification of the source but all the details essential to textual criticism, thorough analyses, and sound conclusions. 

The input vs. output issue is especially important for history researchers, given our use of so many original materials. Yes, EE does provide formats for many types of sources not treated by classic citation guides; but the more-important issue is not format but substance. What's critical is that

  • we understand each type of record, and

  • identify each in a manner that explains the nature of that source, so that its evidence can be appropriately interpreted and the accuracy of our conclusions can be appraised.

Photo credit: "Feedback concept on blackboard," CanStockPhoto ( : downloaded 3 September 2014), used under license.