Where did you find that?

One of the first things I learned as an undergraduate in History, was to cite your sources.  Some professors tend to be sticklers on this topic.  You have an original idea, but still need to provide three sources to back up that idea.  Regardless, bibliographies, endnotes and footnotes do come in handy, especially when producing a body of literature, which you intend to be used by other researchers.

It still comes as a bit of a shock (like not knowing the difference between primary and secondary sources) that the bulk of the researchers visiting the library, DO NOT cite where they found their information.  For all of our researchers (onsite and offsite), we provide the title page free of charge.  This way they know where they found their information and can use this information for future research.  So, why do we have researchers refusing this service?  Are researchers so focused on obtaining the information, they fail to forget that where they found that information is just as important?  Are online sources and television shows, such as Ancestry.com and Who Do You Think You Are? downplaying the need for bibliographies and source information?

As a historian, I do not trust any article, genealogy, website, and so on, that uses historic information through multiple sources and those sources aren’t cited.  If you use an Archival Facility for information, remember to cite Collection Information and list the name of the library you found it in.  Do not take for granted that people will know where you found your information.  And, if researchers are not willing to divulge their bibliography/source list, I would not trust the work they are doing.  If you forget to write down a source, we will assist you the best we can.  But, please do not send an email, describing the book (color, thickness, etc) and think we are going to be able to locate it.  With over 10,000 books in our collection, after a while, they all tend to match the description.

So, I cannot stress this enough…CITE YOUR SOURCES.  Provide proper Bibliographies, Endnotes and Footnotes.
To better assist you with this here are a few sites (which I actually use in book form) that are good reference tools:

Diana Hacker – A Pocket Style Manual: http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/resdoc5e/RES5e_ch10_s1-0001.html

Chicago Manual Style: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

We also have printed sources in the library available upon request.

Happy Researching!


2 thoughts on “Where did you find that?

  1. That’s a good – and nice – idea, about providing a photocopy of the title page for free.
    And yes, it is pretty aggravating when someone expects you to try and figure out what book they were using. We have a group of students that do local history projects every year, and it seems like inevitably one of them fails to write down their source and when the teacher catches it on their rough draft, they are calling us and want us to try and help them figure out where they found that piece of information or which book it was (“I think it was a small black book…”). LOL

  2. I know what you mean about the importance of citing your sources when working on genealogy. I have found Ancestry.com to be a useful tool, but unless the contributor included a primary source, I am skeptical of the validity of the information and need to verify it before including it in my family history. My favorite “goof” so far was when my mother’s cousin, who has been working on her maternal side family history for over 30 years, identifying her father’s father as having the same last name as her mother’s side (and no, they weren’t cousins).

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