Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ibid., R.I.P?

Tomorrow, students in my methodology course learn to do footnotes, and when I say "footnotes," I mean, of course, Turabian.

Historians, from undergraduate majors on up, will recognize the name. Turabian is our bible ("The Gospel According to St. Kate") for citation formats and style. (Miss Ash, who is going to be a history major but pretends not to know it yet, will soon have to learn the rigors of Turabian. She needs the discipline--no pun intended--as she recently came out for "hot pink" blue books.)

The 7th edition of Turabian was published this past April, and for the most part, it's good. But the editors for this new revision did a couple of things that I find disturbing. First, they made "ibid." optional. ("Ibid." is the abbreviation used in notes to indicate that the citation is the same as that in the previous note.) No, that's not exactly right. They don't really offer ibid. as an option. They say that in such circumstances one should give the name of the author (or author/title), and then they offer this little gem: "Some writers still use 'ibid.' to shorten a citation to a work whose bibliographical data appear in the immediately previous note." Did you get that patronizing tone? "Some writers still use...." The Sixth edition prescribed "ibid."; now it's "some writers still use...." Well, I'm an ibid. kind of guy, so I guess that makes me "some writer" (and it makes me feel like Dr. Fossil).

Second, the editors added a completely new section, "Research and Writing: From Planning to Production." Generally it's quite good, but in the chapter titled "Planning Your Argument," they employed the Toulmin method of argumentation, which includes "warrants," "claims," "qualifiers," and other bunkum. Students don't get it, and I understand it just enough to know that I don't, either. We do talk about logical fallacies, but that comes in a couple of weeks. Tomorrow, it's footnotes, and I'm going to let 'em know that ibid. is still OK.