Ten Citation Commandments for Intimidated Souls

13 April 2014

The citation police are notorious. They thrive on blogs like QuickTips and use its content to condemn poor souls who violate wee tenets of EE or CMOS or MLA. Or so we hear. Frequently. Perhaps today's commandments will come in handy sometime, when you are cornered by citation zealots who have forgotten their own past transgressions.

  1. Thou shalt cite something to back up every assertion.
  2. Thou shalt not beat thy breast over past lapses. All have sinned and fallen short of the grace and glory of Sister Rapknuckle.
  3. Thou shalt not be paranoid. Any citation is better than none at all.
  4. Thou shalt not get bent out of shape over punctuation marks. Commas and semicolons aid clarity. But in the grand scheme of things, they won't change the world.
  5. Thou shalt not expect formulas to fit every record in existence. Citation is an art, not a science.
  6. Thou shalt cite only what thou useth. When thy source cites its own source, thy citation should emphasize the one thou useth. The source-of-thy-source is just rumor until thou actually use it.
  7. Thou shalt give credit where credit is due. Published works call for identifying authors and publishers, not a library's call number or just a URL.
  8. Thou shalt thoughtfully consider the nature of thy source. Otherwise, thou wilt go away without details thou wilt later need.
  9. Thou shalt thoughtfully consider what details others needeth to find and understand thy source.
  10. Thou shalt always add an appraisal of thy source—its strengths and weaknesses—while thou art eyeballing it. For, verily, we say unto you: Appraising the credibility of thy information is the real reason for citing sources in the first place.

Submitted byEzri Redikeron Sun, 04/13/2014 - 13:39

When I began seriously conducting Genealogy research, I would go places and gather as much as I could, anywhere I could. My only saving grace was that when I cited my sources I just wrote them out the best I could.


On 13 April 2014 I, Ezri J. Rediker retrieved a photograph of my Great-Grandfather Andrew Rediker from my Aunt Louise Rediker. No name was written on the front or back of the photograph.

Looking back, writing it out in plain english was better than writing nothing at all.

Agreed, Ezri. All researchers have a starting point in their learning process. Some beginners have keener intuition—or varying levels of prior exposure to principles and processes—but no one starts out knowing everything. No one starts out understanding why certain standards or rules exist. And, for certain, no one lives long enough to achieve perfection.