Writing Tips from Professor Alves

When to cite

Other writing tips:

A critical part of the writing process is knowing when a citation is appropriate. An unnecessary citation is annoying, but lack of a proper citation when one is needed can be confusing at best, plagiaristic at worst. The following sorts of material must be cited:
  1. Quotations.

  2.  
  3. An interpretation, opinion, or judgment from another source, even if put in your own words.

  4.  
  5. Facts that are not obvious to the general reader.
There are often gray areas in each of these categories, especially in the arts, where subjective judgments form such an important part of the literature.

For example, suppose that you read that a source describes The Rite of Spring as "dynamic," and you agree. Does that mean that every time you use the word "dynamic" you have to put it in quotes and refer to that source? Probably not, since it is a common word and few people would disagree.

What if the source referred to the use of syncopated rhythms? You would not have to cite that either, since syncopation is an objective quality that anyone can see or hear; that is, it is a statement of obvious fact for most people.

What if the source found a hidden quotation of a Russian folk song? That is a fact that would not be obvious to most people and which the writer probably only found after some detailed analysis. Therefore you would cite such information.

What if the source describes The Rite of Spring as being the first truly modern composition? Well, some people might disagree, as that's a subjective judgment. Even if you agree, if the source gave you the idea, then you should cite it.

Non-specific References

Sometimes in everyday speech, we refer to common knowledge by saying something like, "They say that..." or "Some people say...". In most cases, this is not acceptable in a formal paper. If you think that there was a general dislike among critics for symbolist poetry, you cannot simply say, "Some critics condemned symbolist poetry." It may not be common knowledge among your readers who these critics are. You should cite at least one critic and make a case that this point of view represented a consensus at the time: "Critics such as Albert Raymond of Le Monde harshly condemned the innovations of symbolist poetry (Raymond, 1)." Alternatively, you could cite an authoritative secondary source: "Many critics of the time condemned the innovations of symbolist poetry (Smith, 98)." Whenever you make a point that somebody said something or held a certain opinion, you need to cite that fact, unless it is truly common knowledge as defined above. 

Quotations within Quotations

If a source you are quoting quotes another source, the reader needs to know who is saying what: "'[Apollinaire] had the gift of discovering sources of joy, pleasure, amusement, where others would only have seen platitude and banality...'"

There are two sources here, as shown by the interior quotes. It is insufficient to simply cite the source you used. Your reader will want to know who said these words. In this case, you can cite it as: (Billy, quoted in Schwartz, 35). Then in your bibliography, you would show an entry for both Billy and Schwartz, presumably copying the Billy citation information from the bibliography in Schwartz. If Schwartz translated the quote given, be sure to include that information in the bibliographic entry.

When a citation in parentheses occurs at the end of the sentence, the period comes after the citation, not before: (Strunk, 121).

Electronic sources

The explosion of information on the web and other electronic sources has created problems as well as opportunities never considered by earlier writers. Now it is not only incumbent on the writer to find information, the writer must also verify its reliability and authority. While the very fact that a source was printed by a reputable publishing firm previously vouched for its authority in questions of fact (at least for the purposes of papers for this class), such mechanisms are only beginning to exist on the web. One way to establish credibility is to show that the work previously appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, but, if that's the case, you might as well cite the journal. Electronic sources are best used as a way to browse a lot of information, but not as cited sources in your final paper. However, if you do need to cite electronic materials, here are a few "standards" proposed by Melvin E. Page of H-NET:

Listserv Messages

Walsh, Gretchen. [gwalsh@acs.bu.edu]. "REPLY: Using African newspapers in teaching." In H-AFRICA. [h-africa@msu.edu]. 18 October 1995.

World Wide Web

Limb, Peter. "Relationships between Labour & African Nationalist/Liberation Movements in Southern Africa." [http://neal.ctstateu.edu/history/world_history/archives/limb-l.html]. May 1992.

FTP Site

Heinrich, Gregor. [103.100@compuserve.com]. "Where There Is Beauty, There is Hope: Sau Tome e Principe." [ftp.cs.ubc.ca/pub/local/FAQ/african/gen/saoep.txt]. July 1994.

An Example Exercise

Here are two excerpts from actual sources. Below are some possible sentences in a paper. What needs to be cited, what needs to be in quotes, and why?

 "Pierrot Lunaire is an ambiguous work in many senses. The soloist is required to use Sprechgesang, a mode of vocalization lying between song and speech....The manner is part that of 'serious' music, part that of the cabaret, the vocalist being accompanied by a small band of flute, clarinet, two strings, and piano....Above all the 'light, ironic, satirical tone' is fused with feelings of terrified isolation, murderous violence, macabre glee and hopeless nostalgia....Though still freely atonal, Pierrot returns towards the contrapuntal proprieties and so prepares the way for ordering of atonality which Schoenberg was to achieve in serialism." Griffiths, Paul. Modern Music: A Concise History. Revised ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc. 1994.

 "Schoenberg's Pierrot is a far cry from the clown of the commedia dell'arte. This Pierrot presents many apparently psychotic features whose significance was being brought to light by psychoanalytic psychology....In its musical form, Pierrot Lunaire represents a shift from Schoenberg's recent expressive compositions to a new emphasis on form....In the piece 'Moonspot,' when Pierrot looks around and discovers a white spot on his back, his action is accompanied by the piano playing a three-part fugue, the clarinet and piccolo forming canons in diminution with the first two voices of the fugue, and a third canon, independent of the others, handled by the violin and cello." Peyser, Joan. The New Music: The Sense Behind the Sound. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1971.

 Pierrot Lunaire demonstrates ambiguity in its use of Sprechgesang (a kind of speech-song), its debt to the cabaret tradition, and the irony of the text.

 Pierrot Lunaire is a "freely atonal" work, which means that, while it does not have any key like conventional music of the time, neither is its atonality systematized by serialism, as Schoenberg's later works would be.

 Giraud's expressionistic text for Pierrot Lunaire presents dark, psychotic images of terrified isolation in the character of a clown of the commedia dell'arte. Unlike the immediately preceding pieces, Schoenberg's techniques in Pierrot include a return to the proprieties of counterpoint, including the use of fugue and canon, as in the piece "Moonspot."

 The apparent psychoanalytical view of the mind in Pierrot may indicate the influence of Schoenberg's fellow-Viennese contemporary, Sigmund Freud.