Details, details…(my thoughts on citing works in footnotes)

Let me preface this post by saying that this is going be one of my more boring comments, so don’t read this late at night or else you may crush your keyboard with your face when you doze off.  Ok.

When writing footnotes in your doctoral thesis, it is helpful to have a consistent citation style.  Personally, I have been trained with the SBL Handbook (and I worked for Hendrickson who sells it!) and I like the fact that it is comprehensive for biblical studies.  You can look up how to cite just about any ancient text as well as major series collections.  Also, it has excellent lists of how to spell common biblical studies terms/jargon and whether or not to capitalize it.

But, that is not what I wanted to say.  This is about how to organize a footnote that contains several works in a row separated by a semi-colon.  In what order do you put the works?  Alphabetical?  By relevance/importance?  By year of publishing?  This seems like a trite question, but your external reader will have a keen eye and you don’t want to fail based on sloppy style.  So, I called John Barclay.

John said that there is no ‘standard’ in scholarship on how to organize lists in footnotes, but a reasonable way is to do it by year of publication beginning with the earliest year (1912, 1925, 1995, 2001, etc..).  That way you give the reader an idea of the intellectual progression of thought on whatever you are citing.  Confused?  Here is an example.  I noted in a paper that metaphors have seized the interest of biblical scholars at a rapid rate since the 1970s.  Then I footnoted a list of scholarly monographs (and mostly published theses) that deal with metaphors in the Old and New Testaments.  How do you organize that list?  Barclay recommended to me by year beginning with the earliest.

So, it sounds dull, but I like to have patterns.  Call me type-A, but it works for me.  Cheers.

Help from the Tyndale House

The Tyndale House (in Cambridge) is a public research library that specialises in Biblical Studies.  It is private in the sense that one must apply for access and it is exclusively used by scholars and research students.  Also, it has a strong evangelical heritage.  American evangelical scholars will not infrequently spend parts of their sabbatical at the Tyndale House.  Some of the staff at the Tyndale House are also, to my knowledge, professors at Cambridge University. 

 How can they help?  Well, if you study in England, they are bound to have just about anything you are looking for in Biblical Studies.  But, they can help in another way – their online library catalogue (‘Tyncat’).  It is no ordinary catalogue.  It has three very useful additional features. 

 First, if you search for a book, let’s say The Paul Quest (Ben Witherington), the book will come up and to the left of the title will be a couple of links.  These links tell you whether this book is fully searchable on Amazon (and it will furnish a picture if it is).  If it is not searchable on Amazon, it will provide a link to Google Scholar to see if it is searchable/readable on Google.  You press the link and it immediately takes you into Google Scholar and tries to locate the book (the best way to understand what I am saying is to try it!).  This is great because it saves time trying to search for the book online to read (if possible).

Second, to the right of the title of the book, in Tyncat, will be a search link for finding the book used (if you want to purchase it).  Once again, you could do it some other way, but Tyncat will save you some time.

Third, if you double-click on the title, it will open another window that will give you more detail on the book.  One helpful addition is that the catalogue will automatically show you how to cite the book in a bibliography offering both the MLA style and the APA (author-date) citation style.  A bonus feature on this page, as well, is the opportunity to link to SBL’s book review website to find a book review.

Now, I will warn you that the amazon link is sometimes just wrong in that the picture on Tyncat clearly shows the book with the ‘search inside’ symbol at the top.  But, when you click it and go to Amazon, the book is not actually searchable. I’m still trying to figure out why, but my guess is that at some point Amazon did some restructuring and Tyncat has not gone back to update their information (which is understandable).