3.180 e-mail citation, cont. (88)

Tue, 27 Jun 89 18:47:22 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 180. Tuesday, 27 Jun 1989.

Date: Tue, 27 Jun 1989 12:06:38 EDT
From: Laine Ruus <LAINE@vm.utcs.utoronto.ca>
Subject: MLA citation format

In response to the suggested e-mail citation format in 3.174:

I have several objections to the format for the citation of
e-mail which was outlined. The suggested format was as
Germain, Ellen. "Micro applications for scholarly research."
Electronic correspondence. Humanist Discussion Group.
U of Toronto. Bitnet Network. 30 May 1989.

My objections are as follows:
(a) it would seem that there is little dispute that
electronic mail communications should be treated as mail
in the traditional sense of the word. We should then
cite electronic mail as we cite other mail.
(b) taking the title from a field that is not REQUIRED in
an e-mail communication then leaves one with the question of how
to provide titles for e-mail messages without author-supplied
subjects. The _MLA style manual_(1985) does not specify a
title for traditional letters, but merely calls them 'Letter to...'.
(c) Since it perfectly feasible for another 'Humanist discussion
group' to exist on bitnet, and even operate from the University
of Toronto (although I agree that this is unlikely), the
'publishing information' in the above example is too vague.
The only thing that is totally unique, for various system
and software reasons, about the discussion group to which
we belong is the computer account which maintains the list,
i.e. HUMANIST@UTORONTO. This should be
likened, not to the call number, but to the PUBLISHER. The label
by which the list identifies itself (as the 'Sender', i.e. 'HUMANIST
Discussion') is a field in a NAMES file which is relatively
easy to change but nontheless identifies the 'publisher'
further. Should this identifier, or the computer account
on which the list is maintained be changed, it would be
tatamount to the takeover of a periodical from one publishing
house by another.
(d) The _MLA style manual_(1985, p. 157) makes a distinction between
three general categories of letters, which for these purposes I
find a useful one. The categories are "(1) published letters,
(2) letters in archives, and (3) letters received by the researcher."
For the purpose of citations, I would suggest that e-mail
letters to a discussion group such as Humanist should be considered
to be in the first category, published letters.
The same reference continues: "Treat a published letter like a work
in a collection...adding the date of the letter and the number
(if the editor has assigned one)." Well, Willard very kindly
has started to assign a number indeed to, not granted each
letter per se, but to each message.
(e) The object of citing sources is to make them as easy
as possible for the next person to identify and find. Thus
citations should be specific rather than general.

Given the above, I would suggest the following as alternative
citation formats for e-mail:

If the letter is to a discussion group -

Uchitelle, Daniel. Electronic letter to Humanist Discussion,
no. 3.174. HUMANIST@UTORONTO.BITNET. 26 June, 1989.

If the message is a direct communication:

Humphrey, Chuck. Electronic letter to Laine Ruus. 22 April 1989.

I have no strong feeling whether the medium should be called
'electronic letter' or 'electronic mail message', but do suggest
that the publishers should coordinate their terminology.

While we are speaking to a publishers' concern...when are
publishers such as MLA, OUP, etc. going to require
citations for computer files of primary research data
(such as full-text files) in the bibliographies of their
publications? And when will such citation formats appear in the
various style manuals? Are the publishers aware that the American
Sociological Association has, for the last two years,
required citations for data files in all their periodicals?