How do we attribute what we find and use online?

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Image source: Craig R. Kirkby on Flickr

When we write and use other people’s ideas we should always attribute these to the source. This is the expected, ethical use of what we’ve read elsewhere. It’s a good idea to get into that mindset and learn procedures as early as possible because it’s expected in higher education and part of the assessment.

In blog posts we do the same – we attribute ideas, text, images, videos, sound files, etc. to the source of where we found these, but instead of adding footnotes we hyperlink back to the source.

Hyperlinked citations are much more than an attribution of cited sources; they are also:

  • a direct link the the source itself
  • a solution to wordy explanations which interrupt the flow of the sentence
  • a dense and complexly charged way of writing

Here’s an example from The Joy of Swimming: An Illustrated Celebration of the Water as a Medium of Bodily, Mental and Spiritual Movement by Maria Popova on the blog, Brain Pickings.

“The truth is an abyss,” Kafka asserted in contemplating the nature of reality. “One must — as in a swimming pool — dare to dive from the quivering springboard of trivial everyday experience and sink into the depths, in order later to rise again … to the now doubly illuminated surface of things.” Alan Watts once explained the tenets of Taoism through swimming. More than a philosophical metaphor, the swimming pool is a place of great psychological potency — Oliver Sacks saw swimming as an essential creative stimulant for writing.

Not only is this hyperlinked method of citation a new way of writing, but it’s also a new way of reading. You might say that the writer has done the work of bringing in the textual background for his ideas, but the reader also has to do the hard work of going to the sources and reading for understanding. Although, in the above example, Maria Popova links to her own blog posts, this is exactly the way you would link back to online sources you have quoted or paraphrased.

Footnotes? Why have these at the foot of the page when you can embed them directly?

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