Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brief Credit or Full Bibliographic Citation? How to Choose, How to Use

Some colleagues and I have been talking about the correct way to use citations and credits in History Day projects. Particularly sticky, it seems to us, is selecting the correct form to use in a specific part of your project. In this regard, documentaries, web sites and exhibits cause the most hand-wringing among students, and the most aggravation among judges. So here goes.

Let's explore the concepts. The NHD Rule Book talks about using "brief citations, "credits," "full bibliographic citations," and "proper credit," for starters. It would be helpful, perhaps, to use one term to mean full bibliographic citations (the kind you use in your bibliography that help other researchers locate sources you used) and another term to mean brief credits, or what you use to indicate how viewers can find the full citation. So that's what I'm going to call them: full bibliographic citations and brief credits. The latter is essentially an abbreviated version of the former and helps viewers figure out where to look in the bibliography.

The question is what concept should be applied at what point in the project. In a documentary, for example, those brief credits should appear throughout, whenever you use something from another source. This includes pictures, film, art, slides, interviews, etc. Let's say you have an interview clip with Bill Gates as part of your documentary. When he appears onscreen, text that identifies him should appear at the same time: Bill Gates, CEO, Gates Foundation (or something like that). And that brief credit needs to be visible long enough to be able to read the whole thing. In the bibliography, I'd expect to find a full bibliographic citation of a personal interview with Bill Gates.

(Documentaries have the added requirement of a general credit list that rolls at the end of the piece. These often zip by so fast that they're impossible to read, a victim of students' desire to get the most out of their 10 minutes. But they really need to meet the same standard: displayed long enough to be readable by your average viewer. See Rule 6 [page 19 in the NHD Rule Book, rev. 2009/2010] for this category for further explanation.)

You need only display enough information in the brief credit to allow viewers to find the source in your bibliography. Or, put another way, you have to display at least enough information in the brief credit that viewers can find the full bibliographic citation in your bibliography.

Similar rules apply for exhibits. In the actual exhibit, a full bibliographic citation would be confusing, wordy and distracting. But you have to give brief credit for images, timelines, quotes, etc., so viewers know where to find the sources in the bibliography. So if you use an image of Chief Seattle that you obtained from the digital image collection of the Washington State Historical Society, I would expect a brief credit that reads something like, "Chief Seattle, courtesy of Washington State Historical Society" (providers of such sources often required specific credit language, so keep your eyes open for that). And then I would expect to be able to go to the bibliography and find the full bibliographic citation for that image. (You could also, it's worth noting, give the brief credit in the image caption; e.g. "This image of Chief Seattle from the Washington State Historical Society shows the dress typical of Duwamish leaders in the mid-19th century.")

And how about websites? Same rule applies. Let's say you use a video clip showing Thomas Edison working on the light bulb in his lab. Users have to click to view the video, so I'd include the brief credit right at that spot: "Click here to view Thomas Edison at work in his lab, courtesy of the Thomas Edison Museum and Archives." And--you know what's coming--I'd then expect to be able to click the bibliography page and easily locate the full bibliographic citation for that video clip.

So this comes down to parsing the sometimes confusing terminology employed in the NHD Rule Book, and--more importantly--thinking logically about what information will help your viewers. To my mind, that means brief credits during the documentary, on the exhibit board, and throughout the web site, with full bibliographic citations available in the bibliography.

It's easy to get hung up on how a brief credit looks, so think about how you--a bona fide historical researcher--would like to see it if you were using the project as a source. In other words, think like an historian. It'll help you navigate the brief credit vs. full bibliographic citation maze. Let me know how you make out.

No comments:

Post a Comment