Being part of an I.T. Degree I have largely been able to avoid referencing, as far as I can tell this has been a good thing. Over the summer I did a group teamwork course which was about the theories of learning and group organisation fundamentals. There was some referencing in that but I did my normal thing of looking up papers and going onto and manually copying the reference lists and citations as I figured it wouldn’t be that difficult for the 1500 word assignments.

To the best of my knowledge this has worked well and no one has complained about my referencing. I have often though word has a references tab which everyone seems to ignore. I have used the similar tab on LibreOffice but only when there were no marks directly given to referencing. To me referencing is a super pedantic world where everyone who takes it seriously is missing the point.

The reason why we reference is so that we can back our arguments up with the work of others and so that those reading can find the information we are using. This is very important, however as long as the system works and everyone understands then there is no problem. Then immediately we add structure to make it easier for everyone to get their information faster. This is still fine however now it has got to the point where people are losing marks on assignments because they put their citation after the comma and not before, or they put the first name first and not the last name.

If it is so important that these things are always correct then we need to create a system which accounts for these problems. This is where computers come in, in many ways the things I am thinking of have already been put into practice but are not necessarily universally accepted. It always annoys me when you use one different systems of referencing and the amount of context for an argument can differ. I mean sometimes you cite a page or a chapter or maybe an entire journal. All of these are correct and yet none at the same time.

Without calling for another standard wouldn’t it be nice for all academic papers to dynamically link to what the author feels is relevant for a point. That may be an entire journal but maybe that is required for their point to be made. You know we have had websites and interactive note books for a while, if you look at data based science they are moving to interactive notebooks so people can see how they filtered and arranged the data and get reproducible results. Couldn’t these ideas be out forward for a new generation of academic writing? No more caring about commas or if you use a p or P to signify a page number. Just click a link and away you go.

I’m sure when you get down to the brass tacks of it there will be something to do with copyright law and publishing companies holding all of this back but It would be nice to imagine a world where instead of referencing you can follow the information and ideas from start to finish without manually cross referencing yourself.


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