Do Not Click Go

Laura Miller over at Salon.com has highlighted an interesting debate within the online writing community and that is where to put your links; within the text or at the end.  It’s an interesting debate with some discussion about the benefits and drawbacks for both the reader and the writer.  Without a doubt to a student, this may seem like one of those obtuse discussions that intellectuals get immersed in that seem to matter little.  And I suppose there’s some truth to that.   But given that we look to the Internet more and more for our news, information, research, etc, it’s a needed discussion.  It’s also a discussion that has had infinite traction within that old dinosaur medium:  print.

In composition courses and hopefully elsewhere, students are told about the importance of citing, the reasons for citing, and the ways to cite.  I certainly emphasize its importance in my courses.  For some, it’s important that you cite in a specific format:  APA, MLA, Chicago Style etc.  Some fields require a specific formatting style and others are more flexible.  Often, I’m more concerned with making sure you make clear indication of a source, and less concerned with the particular format (though some would have trouble with this stance too).

But with this discussion of intext or end-text citations is pretty familiar to myself and others who have found themselves knee deep in research.  The article is comparatively arguing the old debate of footnotes vs. endnotes.  Some citation formats dictate the use of one or the other.  I can even remember one of my mentors in grad school having this discussion and favoring footnotes because there was a sense of instant gratification and less interruption than flipping to the back the chapter or book.  I fall into the same camp in this regard.  The other important insight that she bestowed upon the class was to emphasize that such things as footnotes and endnotes are a place for sources to be listed, but also a way of extending the dialogue.  They can act as a dialogic commentary of additional information between writer and reader.   Again, I can hear the students groaning in response to this, but think of it akin to the director’s commentary on the DVD or even those deleted scenes—that’s what we’re talking about when it comes to footnotes and citations.  It’s say, “But wait!  There’s more!”

So while I’m sure different sites and writers will make a stance about one or the other, the more interesting element is that this is in part an extension of issues that already challenge print media.



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