5.0089 Citations (3/88)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 22 May 91 15:59:34 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0089. Wednesday, 22 May 1991.

(1) Date: 22 May 1991, 07:04:30 EST (30 lines)
Subject: Citation, from the scholar's perspective

(2) Date: Wed, 22 May 1991 16:40:02 GMT+0300 (38 lines)
Subject: RE: 5.0074 Citations

(3) Date: Fri, 17 May 91 17:51 PDT (20 lines)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 22 May 1991, 07:04:30 EST
Subject: Citation, from the scholar's perspective

I wrote about some of the problems of using citation indices to
establish the prominence of scholars, but now I would like to turn the
other face and say that citations are an ugly necessity for scholars
themselves. Footnotes are ugly on the page and distracting. Even the
first editor of the MLA Style Sheet admitted that they pull the eyes of
the reader to the bottom of the page. Some patrician (or matriarchal)
scholars disdained the use of references or citations in literary
criticism, at least, because each reference was considered to be
distracting. There is in lit. crit., at least, a British school (and I
hope I am not being chauvinistic, because I have subscribed to the
practices of that school in scholarly articles I have written in the
last several years) that believes in the bare minimum of apparatus, say
five *essential* books or articles on a subject written in the last
fifty years, when 500 books and articles have been written. But there
are several problems with providing slim citations or none at all: the
reader in an information age does not know where the writer is coming
from, what his or her critical lineage is, what precedent is being
followed. We are, after all, building on everything we have read. To
neglect mention of where we come from is to neglect heritage or to
neglect an accumulated body of "truth." I once was jumped on
ferociously by an anonymous reader for not citing a book I half wrote
(!), so to neglect to mention even the obvious may be considered
reprehensible. The style sheets that recommend parenthetical citation
and a list of works cited may at least solve part of the problem of
ugliness, but we do owe it to our forebears to give them credit for what
we have read. Roy Flannagan
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------47----
Date: Wed, 22 May 1991 16:40:02 GMT+0300
Subject: RE: 5.0074 Citations (5/81)

It's interesting that George Aichele, who agrees with me about the
use of citation, also shares with me two other characteristics:
1) he "relishes the give and take" of arguing a point and "cites
2) he doesn't live in a "publish or perish" environment.

I'm starting to wonder if the academic world doesn't divide into
two halves: those of us (like George and myself) who don't have
to worry about academic politics and can therefore argue a point
of view for its own sake (but pay for it, often at least, with a
lack of academic standing), and those of us who can't afford to
say what they might like the way they might like, because they
have to be constantly looking over their shoulder.

OK, OK, I'm trying to be provocative. But isn't there something
in it? The recent flurry of discussion about the peer-review
process points in the same direction. (For what it's worth, I
think the peer review process is a classic example of the misuse
by imperfect human beings of a basically good and necessary idea,
and the problem is how to replace it with something that's less
open to misuse. No scientist/humanist is impartial, and the more
he cares about his subject the less impartial he's likely to be,
and yes, I too have seen books rejected because they argued against
the reviewer's views, and articles held up for 6 months because
the reviewer didn't want them published but couldn't find anything
to say against them, or rejected for reasons little weightier than
a misplaced punctuation point...in both the sciences and the
humanities. I wonder what would happen if a rejected article were
made available electronically, together with the reviewer's comments
that caused its rejection, so that the academic community in general
could judge both the article and the reviewer?)

Judy Koren

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------21----
Date: Fri, 17 May 91 17:51 PDT

May I offer a peep of skepticism about the measurement of citations,
which is a tool used extensively, I gather, in university management of
promotions and sa lary increases and the like, as well as a measurement,
in a way, of the value o f certain researchers' work. Viz., many
professors in the medical areas, for ex ample have secretaries and
computers, and they incorporate bibliographies and c itations that
lengthen and lengthen, almost geometrically, importing them whole sale
via their computers from article to article and re-exporting them. It
is a cause of certain immense citations and reputations. And who reads
all those bi bliographic entries? They are like tails that lengthen and
lengthen, but mean v ery little too often. So people cite and re-cite
the same lists, and the measur ers make their measurements, and lo! a
person has ten thousand citations: has t hat person been read and
studied? Figure that out. Let alone in the humanities, where mastering
the literature is not something a sane person would undertake, as it is
as vast as the pebbled shore and spreading... Kessler