Citation thoughts

I spent some time looking at Yves Engler’s “Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy” and “Canada and Israel” and noticed that he cites work in a non-standard way. Dawn Paley’s recent review of the Black Book, posted on the Vancouver Media Co-op, describes it this way, and I agree:


I spent some time looking at Yves Engler’s “Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy” and “Canada and Israel” and noticed that he cites work in a non-standard way. Dawn Paley’s recent review of the Black Book, posted on the Vancouver Media Co-op, describes it this way, and I agree:

“When relying on material he accessed online, Engler provides the web address, omitting the author’s name and information about the publication. Quotations from newspapers are cited with reference to the paper by name and date, leaving readers guessing as to the writer. For the reader whose interest is piqued by a particular passage, that means going to the computer and manually entering a URL, a process so tedious that few are likely to follow through. Five, 10, or 50 years down the line, many of the links may be dead or offline.

“Non-traditional citations in the book don’t stop with URLs as references for web articles. Engler also lists his bibliography in alphabetical order by title (as opposed to by author, as the norm), and leaves out a number of books that he references heavily in the text. These may seem insignificant details, but for readers interested in further research about Canada’s foreign policy, the text is missing crucial elements.”

She describes the problem this way:

“…Engler’s writing style obscures the work of a community of people without whom he could not have completed the book. The Black Book includes a list of 21 of the “best books on Canadian Foreign Policy,” and includes a page dedicated to The Dominion at the end of the book. Beyond that, Engler does little to acknowledge that his work has been made possible thanks to multiple generations of activists, independent journalists and researchers across Canada, as well as corporate journalists, upon whose work he relies extensively.”

A recent (Nov 1, 2010) Electronic Intifada piece used this correction:

“A section of this article relied on research first published in the article “60 Years Later: Canada and the Origins of the Israel-Palestine Conflict” by Dan Freeman-Maloy published on ZNet on 4 May 2008. This should have been acknowledged when this article was originally published but due to an editing error, this reference was inadvertently omitted.”

It’s frustrating to read reviews like this one by my friend Stefan Christoff praising the research in “Canada and Israel”:

“Details on direct Canadian participation within Israeli military forces during the 1948 war are particularly striking and include an examination of figures such as Toronto’s Ben Dunkelman, who served in the Canadian Army in World War II and then in Israel Defense Forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, becoming commander of the Israeli army’s 7th Brigade.”

When that research was done and presented by Dan Freeman-Maloy in ZNet.

Other researchers who deserve credit by name include Anthony Fenton, Jon Elmer, and Jennifer Moore, who are cited by URL but not by name. I think it’s good practice, as a community, to cite and credit one another.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.