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Sources, Research and References


Guest Stujoe
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Guest Stujoe

Ok, I admit it. I love to break in a new forum. :ninja:

 

My question has to do with the above title: Sources, Research and References.

 

What is the 'standard' in writing, especially numismatic writing? Let's say that I want to write an article on models/people used on coinage - the topic is picked out of the air because of a recent forum topic.

 

Now, information on this is already 'out there'. 'There' being online, in other books, articles, discussions, etc, etc. Is it appropriate for me to use all these sources to present the information in my own way as an article to my own audience?

 

I am not really creating new knowledge but rather writing on things that are already 'out there' but they are things that the audience that I am writing for might not know. I am not talking about plagiarizing or using other people's words but rather am referring to the use of other sources to gather my information from.

 

I guess that is ok? Should I have to cite every source I use? What are the accepted standards?

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What is the 'standard' in writing, especially numismatic writing? Let's say that I want to write an article on models/people used on coinage - the topic is picked out of the air because of a recent forum topic.

 

 

 

Firstly i don't think there is any one accepted conventional standard in writing there are different ways of going about things. Let me give you an idea of how it could differ with regards to numismatics. Numismatics can attract people from different backgrounds lets say you have two individuals. One is from a history background, the other is from a science background (say the scientific field of archaeology). Both have been commissioned to write an article on a hoard of ancient Greek silver coins.

 

One will come at it from and historical angle discussing the contemporary period the coins came from, their buying power etc. The other will perhaps approach it from a totally different angle and will be more inclined to discuss the silver purity and the methods used to make the coins etc. And they'll probably do the odd experiment here and there on average weights etc.

 

Both have taken the same data but both have done completely different things with it. You will also notice a difference in the academic style of the texts more often than not. As i've had the 'pleasure' of reading both academic history books and academic science books the styles are rather different. History books are big believers in third person (no 'I', no 'You' and no 'We', everything is to be written formally), Science textbooks vary on their approach, many often address the reader direct, many are more informal as far as the prose goes... they just baffle you with numbers and equations instead.

 

So there is no right way about it.

 

 

Secondly;

 

Now, information on this is already 'out there'. 'There' being online, in other books, articles, discussions, etc, etc. Is it appropriate for me to use all these sources to present the information in my own way as an article to my own audience?

 

I am not really creating new knowledge but rather writing on things that are already 'out there' but they are things that the audience that I am writing for might not know. I am not talking about plagiarizing or using other people's words but rather am referring to the use of other sources to gather my information from.

 

 

 

If you've ever read any historical textbook (or most numismatic books) you will note that most books are regurgitations of previous books. It is required in the academic world that you back up your arguments with evidence already out there (science differs of course because you can back it up with scientific discoveries based upon experimentation), however most 'humanity' based studies are generally backed up by older works. Take a look in a numismatic book at the bibliography page (the works quoted there are the works that the authors have used and consulted when writing their own book). So you could say no new academic book is really that new, it basically an old argument with a new spin on it.

 

 

Generally when writing things for these sites i don't bother quoting references (unless someone requests it) generally because i'm writing a brief summary of events and historical context and i don't want to completely baffle people, plus i'm not writing it for commercial use, there's no profit coming off of it.

 

If i were to write a book though i would be extremely thorough and everything source referred to would be footnoted at the bottom of the page and there would be a bibliography included at the back.

 

There are various ways of citing a source for bibliographic use. The two main methods in use is the Harvard System and the Oxford system. (English/Archaeology/Sciences tend to favour the Harvard), History tends to go for the Oxford. This differs in the US where i think Harvard might be standard. In my days as an archaeology student i was reared on the Harvard, but due to taking a degree in history i was converted. (That and because the Harvard system of sticking references in brackets after the relevant bit does my head in because it breaks up the text).

 

Lets say i take your quote to back me up in an argument;

 

 

Many people have often wondered how to properly cite a source in their written work. One member from a coin forum questioned whether they had to 'cite every source' they used.1

 

 

(Please note that the 1 at the end there should be in superscript)

 

At the bottom of the page in the footnote section it would then be;

 

1. S. Miller, The book of Coinpeople (Paris, 2007), p.22.

 

 

 

 

Although i am rusty on Harvard it would be something like this;

 

Many people have often wondered how to properly cite a source in their written work. One member from a coin forum questioned whether they had to 'cite every source' (S. Miller, The Book of Coinpeople, p.22) they used.

 

 

I'm sure that's not entirely correct because i'm not sure if you stick the title in there or not, i think you might put the publisher in instead. The point is though as you can see if you're doing alot of quoting the Harvard is going to get alot disjoined with stuff in brackets littered throughout. Although the advantage to this system is it's easier to find the reference for the source. In Oxford the text might not state the historian or source but merely pass comment (often reworded in the author's words rather than being in quote marks) and then stick a superscript number at the end. So then you've got to go looking. If they use footnoting methods then it's no great problem. If they are the type though to use endnotes (whereby instead of putting them at the bottom ogf the relevant page they group them all together and stick them at the end of the chapter [or even at the end of the book!] then it's alot of messing about).

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There are also correct conventions for quoting from websites as well. I don't have the guide on me as it stands but generally it would be not dissimilar to quoting from a book. Except the publishing date of the book is replaced by the creation date of the site being used. You also have to stick the date of access on also (this helps readers of your work know how long ago it was this site was up), afterall it could be taken down within a few months of you having completed your article.

 

You also have to provide a link to the site in <>, e.g

 

<http//:www.coinpeople.com>

 

The <'s just help to make sure than if any address ends in a / or a . then it's known to be part of the address and not part of the writer getting carried away with the grammar by sticking full stops on the end.

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Is it appropriate for me to use all these sources to present the information in my own way as an article to my own audience? ... I am not talking about plagiarizing or using other people's words but rather am referring to the use of other sources to gather my information from. ...  Should I have to cite every source I use? What are the accepted standards?

 

It depends on the publication, but basically, you need to cite every reference you relied on. If you read The Big Book of Old Coins and it is just a rehash with nothing new or interesting, then you do not mention it. Instead you cite the primary references that your work (and the Big Book of Old Coins) drew on.

 

However, if BBOC does have something you took -- even one line or one idea -- then you have to mention it.

 

Some publications will just put a tag on the end saying that a bibliography of resources is available from the author. Others will print the bibilography. Regardless, you need to cite your sources.

 

Most of what I write for The Celator and Numismatist is not truly original by any stretch. (Michael Hodder said that I make my bones from the works of others.) At best, I can put old ideas into a new framework. One way to look at this is that the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises said that we do not argue with the socialists about what the price of some commodity was at a certain time and place, but what that fact means. It is the meaning, not the fact, which is most important. In the case of the "Alexander" work on this website, no one doubts the facts we cited. Few agree with the conclusions we drew. So, you can be "original" with recycled material.

 

But I always cite my sources. Numismatist prefers a shorter bibliography of the most important works and they call it "Learn More."

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What about stuff that's written in books, but that alot of people already know by heart?

 

Technically, you do not need to cite a source for it.

 

When I wrote about Electrum for The Celator, I could assume that "everyone" knows the atomic weights of silver and gold and the general nature of alloys. However, when I wrote in that article specifically about the minerology of electrum, I cited the source.

 

When I judge numismatic exhibits at conventions, I never give good points for citing The Red Book and the Standard Catalog. Every exhibit should have a bibliography of sources. If you want to show some serious work, you have to get beyond the obvious, otherwise, the title of the display would be "Some Pretty Coins." So, too, with writing.

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  I don't have the guide on me as it stands but generally it would be not dissimilar to quoting from a book. Except ...

 

Right. Look in the more recent editions of the Chicago Style Guide or the ALA Style Guide or the AP Styleguide. There are other academic style guides out there, Columbia, for instance. They show and tell and give examples.

 

My wife is an editor -- makes my life hell, I assure you -- and we have half a dozen of these things and a bunch of dictionaries. Sometimes a publisher will tell her which style guide and which dictionary to use.

 

At a coin show, I found a little lapel pin that apparently was given to homes that bought Britannicas (or maybe World Books). "We never guess. We look it up." I gave it to my wife.

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:ninja:

 

 

I'm not often one to say this, but perhaps there is sometimes an advantage to standardisation... for every new citing system you get your head around and master someone will be sat there right now thinking up another system to add to the already dishevelled pile the academic world has gathered in the room of knowledge.

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  • 1 month later...

As others have pointed out, how you support what you write depends largely on the conventions of the particular publication you're writing for. You may think you're writing for your readers, but in print anyway, you're actually writing for your editors. They're the gatekeepers, and it's their job to determine how their publication can best meet the needs of its readers.

 

So read carefully other articles in any publication you think might be appropriate for any article you're considering writing.

 

Publications run the gamut in terms of what they require for supporting your points. At one end, in numismatics, academic publications such as the American Numismatic Society's American Journal of Numismatics and the Royal Numismatic Society's Numismatic Chronicle require detailed footnoting (along with original research of your own). At the other extreme, coin club journals typically permit undocumented commentary off the top of your head, which is similar to many online forum posts. In the middle are professional but popular publications such as the ANA's Numismatist, COINage, Coins, and the Celator that may prefer you to document your work by seamlessly including references to books, other magazine articles, or experts within the body of the article (Roman coins spread widely, even as far as Mars, said Joe Blowhard in his 1992 book the Influence of Ancient Coins). With some popular magazine articles, however, you see more formal footnotes and in still others you see little if any attribution of information.

 

You don't have to document common knowledge -- available in numerous places. But it's considered bad form at best and plagiarism at worst not to document original ideas or knowledge, which can make it appear as if you're trying to claim that the ideas or knowledge originated from you. There's often a gray area here, with judgment required. If you err on the side of documenting too much, you slow readers down and burden them with unnecessary details about where you read this and where you read that, details that don't help them grasp the subject matter. If you err on the side of documenting too little, you shortchange others whose originality and creativity deserve to be credited, and you create credibility questions in the minds of readers about how and where you came up with your information.

 

Too often, in numismatics as elsewhere, people make factual claims that have no basis in fact. This is particularly common online, which doesn't have the gatekeepers of print and where anybody can pose as an expert. But it happens in print too. You can wind up looking like a poseur, somebody who pretends to be an expert for the ego gratification -- not in the minds not of those who know less than you but rather in the minds of those who know more. Many of those who know less will eventually find out as well. On the other hand, there's the opposite risk of having too little confidence in what you're writing, which can cause readers to question why they're reading you in the first place.

 

The best ways to avoid both scenarios is with thorough research and vetting. Read what others have concluded about the same subject matter you're studying and making conclusions about. Find out what evidence they used to make their conclusions. All knowledge is based on prior knowledge -- it doesn't exist in a vacuum. Then try to come up with new evidence, if you can and if this is the type of article you're writing. Not all numismatic articles require new research. Some of the best, literature reviews, summarize the work and conclusions of others and make this easily accessible to readers so they can better appreciate their coins. Others include arguments why some conclusions of others about a particular subject are more credible than that of others. But don't avoid the work of doing this research by, for instance, claiming that there are only three important articles ever written about the origins of coinage when in fact those who are knowledgeable about this frequently researched subject know that there are at least ten times this many, in English alone. On the other hand, other types of article require little if any research at all, if for instance you're writing a first-person account of a particularly interesting experience you had.

 

Similarly, don't avoid the work of peer reviewing if you're tackling material that may be complicated or new to you. You may discover that you've neglected some important issues or sources, which will require more research. You don't have to follow every suggestion that peer reviewers make, but your article will inevitably be more informed as a result of their making these suggestions. Asking experts to review or vet your article before you submit it isn't failing to take responsibility for your own work or failing to think for yourself. Academic publications require peer reviewing, and it can often be smart to do this on your own even if writing for a popular publication that doesn't require it. No matter how careful you are, you'll make mistakes, perhaps large ones of substance, perhaps only small mistakes such as typos, mistakes that editors don't always catch. It's better for readers to point out your mistakes before publication than afterward. Afterward, you might find yourself in the position of having to rescind your support of a position that you argued passionately for or in the even worse position of feeling compelled to defend what can't logically be defended.

 

Don't forget to have fun, particularly when writing about a hobby such as coin collecting. You may think you're imparting crucial new knowledge to the world, but if you think this way, you'll likely come across as dry and boring. Try to be as interesting to readers as the subject matter is interesting to you. But avoid the lure of showing off your collection ... too much. Much of the fun in numismatics is impressing others, and yourself, with the coins and the knowledge that you've acquired. But if this comes across as your sole or primary objective in writing, you'll turn people off. Your primary objective in writing should be to help readers gain greater appreciation for their coins. You can do this by sharing specific about your coins as long as you also provide more general information that they can apply to their coins.

 

I've probably missed some things in what I've said above, and I may have made a mistake or two -- I didn't have this post peer reviewed. <g> But I think this covers the major issues here. If it doesn't or if I've erred, I'll do what can easily be done online, one of the capabilities that distinguishes online writing from print -- quickly correct or append.

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I believe Reid's post hit the nail on the head there. I don't think i would or could argue with any of that.

 

The Peer reviewing is a very good tip. Whilst i fall guilty of never doing that when writing online, basically because any articles i ever wrote online are mere introductions and overviews. (What i'd term as coins put in context.) If you were writing to have an article published for instance either written, or put online then it is wise to get second, third and fourth opinions on your material. As Reid explained because it can help you to weed out errors that you may have missed. More than this though it can also help you develop your arguments further because proofreaders can come up with extra bits of information or extra facts that you may have missed.

 

Think of proofreading as an information enrichment exercise. Not a spot my mistakes run through.

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The Peer reviewing is a very good tip. Whilst i fall guilty of never doing that when writing online, basically because any articles i ever wrote online are mere introductions and overviews.

 

I agree with that sentiment. My upcoming article was reviewed by a fellow collector and physics enthusiast and just the act of having someone else look at things really helped the article. Not only with basic things but also focus and clarity. The main problem can be finding someone good to read ones drafts.

:ninja:

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I appreciate the offer :ninja:

 

The details of what I say aren't so critical when I review. It is more about keeping a cohesive theme and ensuring that the text remains clear and decypherable throughout.

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... keeping a cohesive theme and ensuring that the text remains clear and decypherable throughout.

 

... and spelling decipherable with an i like an American, even if we are not the honourable and realised centre of the language.

 

Other than that...

 

I am up for it. I would be willing to circulate a draft here, and I would be willing to read and review.

 

It is a good idea!

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