A new way to do references?

Have you ever spent ages hunting down page numbers, date and city of publication, and other details for footnotes or a bibliography? In the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks is asking why, in the age of the Internet, we’re still including all these arcane details.

Simply, it’s time to admit that the Internet has changed the way we do scholarship and will go on changing it. There is so much inertia in the academic world, so much affection for fussy old ways. People love getting all the brackets and commas and abbreviations just so. Perhaps it gives them a feeling of accomplishment. Professors torment students over the tiniest details of bibliographical information, when anyone wishing to check can simply put the author name and title in any Internet search engine.

My colleague, Corinna, one of the finest copy editors in the business, said about the Tim Parks article:

So much of referencing seems unnecessary, and as fast as I get one style into my head I get another job that uses a different style. And tracking down city of publication is often impossible. Does it really matter, if the purpose of referencing is that someone can track the source down without too much trouble (probably using the same methods I’m using)?

The article suggests we wipe the slate clean and develop the simplest possible protocol for checking sources in the internet world. Corinna and I agree.

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