Cite Your Sources – Part 1

Written by Lynn.

Today is World Book and Copyright Day, a day established to celebrate the wonder of books and reading. Now, there is so much we could talk about today: the importance of physical media, why copyright is complicated for the sake of information, or even something as basic as the importance of reading as a witch. But no, today I am going to take on a task even more daunting than any of these. For you see, next week we have World Intellectual Property Day (the 26th). To mark both days I’ll be taking on the topic of tracking your sources. Doing research is an important part of being a witch, but keeping track of where you learned things can be a pain. Today I am going to give you several reasons that tracking your sources is very important. Then, next week, I’ll go into some ways to make this process easier using modern technology.

It doesn’t have to be a hassle.

”Lynn, I had to do citations in school and I hated it. Why do I have to do it now?”

Ok, I hear you. Citations for research papers were annoying because you had to follow specific formats and make everything all uniform. You, yourself, never used those citations to review your own research. They were for the teacher’s sake.

When doing citations for your own notes and writings, you have a massive advantage in the fact that you can include as much or as little as you’d like. You can just write down a title and author. Heck, taking pictures of things with your phone and putting them in a folder named “resources” can be enough. Why do it at all, though? Well, when’s the last time you wanted to recommend a book to a friend that you don’t own yourself? What do you do when you want more context on something you noted a month ago?

Prepare to retrace your steps.

The number one reason I will give you for tracking sources? So you can retrace your steps later. It’s all too easy to paraphrase something poorly or make a mistake that looks right. Without notes on where something came from, it’s hard to go back and check the original source. Furthermore, I often have friends asking me where I found a spell or piece of information. Being able to check my notes and see “oh, I found it in this specific book here” can save me a lot of time.

Academic citations are thorough and long because that information was deemed enough to cover all the bases. I am not suggesting you have to do ALL of that for every book you read or website you visit. I do, however, suggest you find a system that works for you to make it easy to find the thing later.

Information can be bad.

We live in an era where information is readily at our fingertips, but not all of it is good information. It is easy to learn after the fact that what you wrote down isn’t accurate or the full picture. Perhaps you learn an author has been found to be an unreliable or mistaken source (to put it kindly). Heck, something can be bad information just because it is out of date. If you learn after the fact that something was bad information , you need to go adjust your notes on it. The context around information will change over time. Make sure you are always evaluating what you are reading and what you have read in the past.

Make the system yours.

There’s so many reasons to keep a log of where you read things, but the process of actually doing so can be a chore. Next Tuesday we are going to talk about how to cite things and where to store that information. In the meantime, start looking at what information you might want to keep about your sources. Remember, no one is forcing you to use a specific system here, so you can pick what information you wish to prioritize.

Part 2 is up now!

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