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.


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