Friday, 30 April 2021

Citations as sub-clauses

Each year I have to explain how citations work to students, and one aspect of citations which many international students seem to find difficult is the idea that a citation is a subclause in the sentence. 

If we start with a common student writing error:

In an article (McLeod et al, 2010) mentioned it is very hard to predict for a business that in what time a product will be recovered and reused; and when a return will happen. 

I explain this by saying that we should be able to drop what is in the citation bracket out of the sentence, and still have the sentence making sense. I get them to test their writing to see if their sentences makes sense, when they drop their citations out, as follows:

In an article mentioned it is very hard to predict for a business that in what time a product will be recovered and reused; and when a return will happen. 

The penny suddenly drops. We have lost our subject - or object - just like that.

We could repair very simply by only extracting the author name from the citation brackets and adding a comma, and the sentence would make sense when written as follows:

In an article, McLeod et al. (2010) mentioned it is very hard to predict for a business that in what time a product will be recovered and reused; and when a return will happen. 

However, I then usually suggest an edit, to not put the author first at all; this is so we retain our power (more on that here) and keep the focus on the ideas and themes, not on individual authors. This could perhaps read:

It is very hard for a business to predict when a return will occur, or when a product will be recovered and reused (McLeod et al., 2010). 

Much nicer.


Sam


No comments :

Post a comment

Thanks for your feedback. The elves will post it shortly.