1. Christian4ever

    Christian4ever New Member

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    Citation for a History Book

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Christian4ever, Oct 27, 2016.

    I am blessed to be writing a history book and I had some questions on citations. I noticed a lot of books have endnotes, but no footnotes. Is this correct? Also, how much do I need to cite? For instance, one particular individual that I was writing on, I hardly knew anything about. I was using one book for the main source of information. Since I did not know much outside of this book, if I cited everything I used, it would be three pages of every sentence having a reference number. Do I just cite quotes or is there a way to cite the information without placing a reference number on every sentence? Thank ya'll so much for the help! God bless<><
     
  2. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The following assumes you're writing a book for the general public and not a textbook:

    If you truly can't find another source for that person or event, you might deal with the problem by giving credit right there in the text. You can state quite frankly something like "A letter from Titus Titius1 is the only known source for the history of St. Sophronina Antonia. He tells his friend that . . . " Insert the number referring to the main bibliographical note with this initial citation, then present the story in your own words and do the modern version of ibid. and op. cit. only for direct quotations. From time to time you might throw in Titus's name to remind your reader that this is his material reworked. What you don't want to do is litter your narrative with in-line citations per the Chicago Manual of Style or with little reference numbers every sentence.

    I'm thinking that if you want this to be a smooth narrative, you'll definitely want to do endnotes. Footnotes are great in scholarly and academic work, but disrupt the flow in a work for popular edification and enjoyment.

    You can look at the Nonfiction area in the Workshop to see who else is working in that genre and see what they did.
     
  3. Dr. Mambo

    Dr. Mambo Contributor Contributor

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    What's your background in writing history? I ask because it's generally poor practice to lean on secondary sources as the basis for your own work, though to some degree it depends on the topic of your book.

    To avoid the problem you're talking about, some historians cite each paragraph as opposed to each sentence, and then write endnotes about each citation. Sometimes the endnote is as simple as referencing the source (ex: The Life of Wyatt Earp, 142-143), and sometimes the author will include whole paragraphs of extra information about how much we do or don't know about the particular tidbit that's been cited and why the author is arguing in favor of one explanation over another.

    I always leaned toward over-sourcing when I wrote history essays in college. Some of my essays do have a citation after almost every sentence. Really, that's not necessary. You only need to cite when you're borrowing or referencing an idea that isn't your own and when you're deriving your own argument/spin from specific primary source information. You don't need to source things like "They suffered 23 casualties in two days--the bloodiest 48 hours of the war for 3rd Platoon" even if you had no idea about that prior to researching the death toll (unless the death toll is disputed!). The number of casualties is (presumably) a verifiable fact anyone can derive from available reports/source material. Now, if you were to say something like "They suffered 23 casualties in two days--the bloodiest 48 hours of the war for 3rd Platoon. Unfortunately, their deflated morale was lost on the commanding officer of the company, who ordered them to continue advancing" then you're going to want to first expound upon why the commander is incompetent and/or not in-tune with the men under his command, which is the implication in that sentence, and cite the source(s) that gave you that idea.

    To simplify what I'm getting at, simple facts ("Life on the Oregon Trail was hard.") don't require citations. An author's argument ("Life on the Oregon Trail was hard, but women had it perhaps the worst of all.") does.
     
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  4. Christian4ever

    Christian4ever New Member

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    Thank ya'll so much for the information and help! Yes, it is not a textbook and this is my first history writing project, since my masters thesis. I always over cite things, because it was taught to me over and over again and it plagiarism scares me. That pretty much answers my question. I was writing about the Japanese pilot, Fuchida, who later became a Christian. I did not know hardly anything about his life, so I was doing most of my research from one book on his life. I just was not sure how much I had to cite in the actual story, since I did not know it previously. Thank ya'll again so much for the time and help! God bless<><
     
  5. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Oh, then, you should be able to find other sources as well, I would think. I know I've heard the story in several places. Whom did the author you're dealing with cite?
     
  6. Christian4ever

    Christian4ever New Member

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    Oh yes, there are several sources available, but I only needed information enough for 2-3 pages. The focus was not on him persay, but I was writing about his life in a particular section. I was blessed to find a really nice book on him, so that's my main research source. It has a lot of accounts from Fuchida himself. I just did not know if I needed to cite every sentence, since it was not something I already knew about. I definitely have used reference numbers on the quotes. Thank you for the help! God bless
     

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