3.174 e-document citation format (70)

Mon, 26 Jun 89 19:33:32 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 174. Monday, 26 Jun 1989.

Date: Mon, 26 Jun 89 15:46:00 EDT
From: MLAOD@CUVMB.bitnet
Subject: MLA citation format

A number of weeks ago I asked Joseph Gibaldi, editor of the *MLA Hand-
book*, to recommend a citation format for electronic correspondence that
conforms to MLA style. At that time I thought that innovations or exten-
sions of MLA style were simply the product of deep thought and spiritual
contemplation by him; but I was informed that all changes and additions
to the Handbook are actually the result of an elaborate committee evalua-
tion process, and, the latest edition of the Handbook having only recent-
ly been published, the Committee would not reconvene for many months.

Dr. Gibaldi did, however, agree to offer a provisional recommendation
regarding electronic correspondence citations. Based on examples from
Humanist and other sources, he suggested a format such as this:

Germain, Ellen. "Micro Applications for Scholarly Research."
Electronic correspondence. Humanist Discussion Group. U of
Toronto. Bitnet Network. 30 May 1989.

Note that the title is taken from the "Subject" line of the correspon-
dence as provided by the author, rather than the subject as defined by
the editor (such as Willard provides for us on Humanist). Note also that
there is no reference to HUMANIST@UTORONTO. Dr. Gibaldi felt that such
information would be analogous to providing a library call number for a
book, which is not done in MLA style. I do see his point in this, but
there seem to be two problems with the use of the library call number
analogy: first, there can be many call numbers for a particular book, but
there is only one "address" for Humanist; second, some universities have
more than one node (Columbia has CUVMA and CUVMB), and this may make it
difficult for someone to locate the proper listserver to retrieve
appropriate files.

I must admit that I find the above citation to be satisfying from a
strictly aesthetic viewpoint. Unencumbered with "@" signs and other
arcane codes, it resembles the sort of citation of printed matter with
which scholars are familiar and comfortable. It does, however, raise
some interesting questions. A scholar, knowing nothing of how his or her
local library is organized, can bring in an MLA-style citation, hand it
to the librarian, and be reasonably assured that the librarian will be
able to recognize the format of the citation and locate the work it
refers to. But how many of us access Bitnet through librarians, and how
many librarians would be able to retrieve a Humanist correspondence given
the above information?

I realize that some Humanist participants are hungry for any recommenda-
tion, even a provisional one, that will allow them to incorporate cita-
tions for electronic correspondence into their research publications.
Rather than simply beginning to use the format I have depicted here, I
would prefer that those interested in the subject send me (through
Humanist or directly) their comments and criticisms of this proposed

Daniel Uchitelle<MLAOD@CUVMB>
Modern Language Association