A Defense of Citation Styles

Yesterday's rant on the terrible evil undergone by the formerly-good-people-of-the-MLA-citation-style-now-carelessly-malicious-jerk-stores made me think more about citation styles in general.  Here is a story about them:

Once, I had a boyfriend.  (I know, this story is really good already.)  He was in school and I was done school.  He had anger issues towards very specific stimuli, the main one being school and the little hoop-jumpy things a person has to do when they're in school.  As anyone who's pursued higher education (and wound up with a useless degree that guarantees nothing but the ability to act like an expert about a topic whilst serving coffee) knows, profs are often sticklers.  They will make you do little, ridiculously specific things when writing papers, and then dock you marks if you don't do them, even if your paper was brilliant.

Former Boyfriend (I don't really like to say "ex" - it sounds kind of jerkish to me) had recently encountered such a scenario where he lost marks on a paper because when presenting the two arguments he would be exploring in his introduction, he did not say the literal words "the first argument is... the second argument is...", but (I am assuming) tried to be a little more interesting and creative in how he presented the arguments.  This lead to an awful tyrade on professors, the uselessness of school, papers, and, eventually came down to the stupidity of various citation styles.  Apparently it is stupid to have more than one citation style: MLA, APA, Chicago, and a whole bunch more including one called the Vancouver System!  So Awesome!

I am a non-boat rocker, and when Former Boyfriend would get all worked up about things like this I'd often try to calm him down by pointing out the other point of view, which would only make him more annoyed, and then I'd get all freaked out and not say anything because I assumed his anger at school would somehow glom onto me even though it never (or rarely?) did.  Regardless to say, this is one of the reasons he is Former Boyfriend.

In retrospect, however, I would like to defend the use of multiple citation styles.  I know it's annoying as a student to have to learn new styles if you ever take a class in a different specialty, and to have to constantly search for free websites online that will explain how to do it and provide clear examples and that you know will be telling you the right way because it's the internet and it could be wrong and then you'd be effed.  However, it really does make sense.

Now I know you're all getting riled up already.  How does it make sense?  You ask.  It's all the same information and we're being forced to present it in slightly different ways!  It's just another way for The Man to control our lives and make us miserable!  Well, I can't argue with that, it's probably true.  However, I do have an actual defense.

In each field of study, different information is important.  For example, if I'm writing a psych paper and following APA, as I should be, I will include the name of the author and year of their publication in my citation.  In psych research, the year something was published is very useful information!  If I am referencing some research that is 50 years old, that matters.  If I am building an argument based on the ongoing changes in findings in a field, it makes it a heck of a lot easier if I say the year of each bit of research as I cite it, so that people can follow.

In MLA, alternatively, which is mostly used for language and humanities-type writing, the year is less important.  Especially if I'm writing about some great work of literature, it's way more helpful if you know the title of said great work, as well as the page I'm referring to.  A lot of great works of literature are effing long.  Do you want to read through 1,000 pages to try to find the evidence for the argument I'm making?  NO!

Now you may be arguing that only losers go check on the evidence for an argument in a scholarly paper.  To that I say, you may be right, but losers are the ones who discover new things and make advancements and do research and whatnot, so they're actually not losers at all but really awesome.  Also, they created these citation styles for use amongst themselves, so it makes sense that as experts furthering the knowledge of some-subject-matter-or-another, they want to be able to check up on each other's arguments.  It's not their fault that we've created an education system that allows apathetic 17 year olds to gain a perfunctory education in their area of expertise from professors who would much rather be doing the research and furthering said area than teaching this introductory drivel over and over again, and who just want to have the apathetic 17 year olds' ridiculously inane papers written in the format they use for everything else so that they don't have to decode this idiot-child's personal citation style while trying to force themselves to read 50 papers a year on a feminist reading of freudian theory that all think they are being very ground-breaking but are all completely stupid and a waste of life that is just swimming on paste their window, and IS THAT REALLY TOO MUCH TO ASK?

(That may have been my best run-on sentence ever.)

Note: When I say Former Boyfriend had anger issues, don't go thinking this was some kind of abusive relationship.  I mean, he would get what I thought was way too angry over little things, but I am the antithesis of a person with anger issues and almost never get mad at anything (to the point where when I do actually get mad I have to ask people if I'm being reasonable or not because I always assume that my anger is without grounds), so when I say someone has anger issues it probably just means that they get angry a normal amount at normally angering things.

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