Sunday, August 21, 2011

Harvard Referencing

I do not doubt that I have had a grumble about the necessity for this in the past, however I was recently reminded of a time when it would have been useful.

I was responding to a post in a research list and referencing my memory of an article I had referered to in a report which in turn had referred to a study, all this back in 1987 before google and the internet mind you.

Now that is vague if you want to find the original. My first fault, though I cited the publication back in my 87 report, was that I did not give the issue number nor the date, which means that you would have to search perhaps a year prior to the date of my report in order to get it. Of course it was an in house journal, and whilst I certainly did have copies of it back then, I have long since consigned them to the trash bin to make room for more journals. (I do not live in a library though it sometimes looks like it)

Next problem, whilst the journal referred to a study, did that give a proper citation in turn? Much googling has failed to turn up the original study, but suffice it to say it was undertaken in Los Angeles, sometime before 1987 and it was an investigation of the measures that the transit authority had put in force to ensure that drivers of the adapted buses did not make excuses to leave wheelchair using passengers stranded (lift not working etc.) There was a fair amount of activity in the States regarding accessible transport back then, and it showed the way for us in the UK.

That study is out there somewhere, my memory will not be faulty on that subject. Failing a copy of the journal which cited the study, I could hunt it down in a library if I really needed (I probably will)

But all that would be unnecessary if I had adopted the academic rigour that is forced upon me nowadays. Perhaps I have protested too much.

It's an anecdote that is not irrelevant to world of peer reviewed journals, science and the citations game, because the further back you go, the less rigour there is, it's not just me. What I wrote was adequate at the time for the joint local authority/health group who commissioned the report, it passed muster for the Department of Transport hearing where my mum presented it, and the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive committee where I subsequently presented it.

The "facts" are that a lot of poorly referenced material has entered the mainstream through such means and anecdotal evidence has been incorporated into later fact without data checking. Not everyone who has referenced something in a paper that has then gone on to be cited again and again has had as reliable a memory for facts as I do and of course I could cite an example of that. I already have elsewhere :)

Oh well, I'm off to Autscape again, and I will be presenting there. It's not so much of a paper, and certainly not academic, as a number of supporting arguments for a general discussion. I will no doubt be making all manner of ad hoc references. They will all be there somewhere to google I expect as I'm not breaking new territory.

Some of the people who have written on the subject before me, have hardly been original either, they can't cite accurately because to do so would expose plagiarism, that is the way our utterances, in the blogosphere, in advocacy mailing lists and I dare say even in off the record private conversations, have been claimed, by the sociologists and historians who have been carefully colonising our autistic world.

I don't even know exactly what I am going to say, I only have a rough map, and I certainly don't know what the responses will be. Exciting isn't it..

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