The new citation

Photo courtesy of kharied on Flickr

As we continue to teach students how to seamlessly embed quotations into their writing, it occurs to me that we have developed a new way to cite our sources, namely online and using hyperlinks.

The hyperlinked citations are much more than an attribution of cited sources; they are also:

  • a direct link the the source itself
  • a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
  • a dense and complexly charged way of writing

Here’s an example from a  blog post I was reading this morning:

(Brian Lamb is writing about the notion of curation as a model for teaching)

Yet again, I’m reminded of my favorite band of mad, bad content curators at WFMU (this year’s fundraising marathon is over, but they’ll still take your money), and how its Free Music Archive places curation at the centre of its mission. There’s an interesting interview on 3 Quarks Daily with WFMU station manager (and killer OpenEd 2009 keynoter) Ken Freedman that cuts to the intersection between freeform weirdness and careful curation.

Not only is this hyperlinked method of citation a new way of writing, but it’s also a new way of reading. You might say that the writer has done the work of bringing in the textual background for his ideas, but the reader also has to do the hard work of going to the sources and reading for understanding.

Footnotes? Why have these at the foot of the page when you can embed them directly?

I’m thinking that this hyperlinked writing should be the way of student resources at school and universities. How much richer and more efficient would online resources be which embedded background knowledge and served as a model for referencing sources?

What I like best about hyperlinked citation is that it leads me to places I haven’t discovered, giving me the option of following new research paths, often serendipitous. It’s an exciting way to learn – not didactic, not limiting, but opening up options for independent learning.

Shouldn’t we start to teach students this new way of reading and writing?

10 thoughts on “The new citation”

  1. This topic really interests me, Tania. In doing some action research in my classroom to see just what was really going on when my students began writing more and more in online, open spaces… I have found many things that tend to agree with what you are saying here.

    When I saw my students taking so enthusiastically to the digital realm, I had a hunch that students were spilling more volume into their pieces. It just seemed like they were writing far more in response to prompts, reflections, and essays.

    However, the power of a control group and a true systematic way of collecting data has helped to suggest otherwise… at least in my classroom environment. Yay, science, right? A bit of specific data that I shared up on the web can be found here: What I’ve found is that contrary to my initial assumptions, under controlled conditions, my students who write to the same prompt online use significantly fewer characters, words, and sentences. Hyperlinking (if approached in a thoughtful way) -it seems- allows my students to shave off 1/3 of the words required by my students who were chosen to complete the same tasks on paper for an audience of me.

    Personally, it didn’t take me but a few blog posts to feel as if I were working in some strange -yet exciting- new genre. Later that year, it was rather affirming to read Will Richardson’s assertions that blogging (or hyperlinked, online writing) seems to indeed be a genre all it’s own. This topic still fires me up. What else can we dream up to explore here?


    1. Thankyou for your thoughts and links, Sean. Now that you mention it, I did read Will’s post when it came out. Your analysis of the formality or informality of writing is interesting when looking at the broader topic of online writing. I wonder if the unnecessary formality, or often purple prose, which is churned out by some literature students – possibly what they expect teachers will like and therefore mark higher – is dropped for a more authentic tone and honest writing. Your action research is worth reading and re-reading; so comprehensive. ‘What else can we dream up to explore here?’ Any ideas?

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