Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ask The footnoteMaven

I received the following email from Terry Thornton of the Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi blog. Terry is the author of one of my favorite blogs and writes to ask some very pertinent questions regarding citing sources contained in blogs. I applaud Terry for making the effort to responsibly document the information contained in his posts.

Let's take a look at his email questions and my responses.

Dear Maven,

You wrote in your recent blog post re: Citations:

Good good good good citations
I'm pickin' up good citations
Your giving me excitations
Good good good good citations

As we all know this is a take off on the Beach Boys' great hit, Good Vibrations. If I wished to include part of their words in my blog and properly footnote them, would the following suffice?

" Ahhhhhhhh
Good good good good vibrations
(Oom bop bop)
(I'm pickin' up good vibrations)
She's giving me excitations
(Oom bop bop)
Good good good good vibrations
(Oom bop bop)"

Source: Some of the lyrics from the Beach Boys, Good Vibrations, by Brian Wilson and Mike Love;Tony Asher and Van Dyke Parks, uncredited lyricists. Lyrics available online at

Terry's Question:

I know this citation does not include publisher, place of publication, nor date --- but this is the most complete citation that I could put together on short notice. Would it do for a blog citation?

footnoteMaven's Answer:

To my knowledge, there is no such thing as a blog citation, only proper citations following one of the many style manuals. There is a citation for song lyrics in a works cited document. It would adhere to the following structure.

Songwriter's last name, first name. "Title of Song." Lyrics. Title of Album. Name of Publishing Company, Year Recorded.

Thus the Beach Boys song Good Vibrations would be cited as:

Wilson, Brian, and Mike Love. “Good Vibrations.” Lyrics. Good Vibrations, Single. Brian Wilson, 1966. Lyrics Freak ( : accessed 18 October 2007).

I added where it could be found online, as you indicated it would be posted online in your blog. This is not actually necessary to the citation in a traditional format, but the purpose of a citation is to enable the reader to find your source. Here the site information would take the reader directly to the source of the lyrics. I also linked the name Lyrics Freak to allow the reader to select the name and be taken directly to the site.

Terry's question:

And now the sixty-four dollar question: should you have cited your take-off on Good Vibrations? LOL! [In academic circles, I'd say YES, but in blogging circles, I don't know.]

footnoteMaven's Answer:

My answer would be no in either circle. It was not necessary to cite my take-off of Good Vibrations for the following reasons:

1. This was not a scholarly work.
2. It was not a direct quote.
3. I did not paraphrase – I played fast and loose.
4. The lyrics are well-know facts, easily ascertainable from many sources – no need for documentation. (Here in #4 you have proven my point. You found the lyrics quite easily with an online search.)

Your suggested use of the lyrics if posted in your blog would be a different matter. Yours wold be a direct quote and I would cite it.

Terry's Question:

This is a typical example of the quagmire I find myself in the modern world of referencing and citing. I think I'm too schooled in the traditional --- any help you can give on when to give a citation and when not to give a citation in blog articles will be most helpful.

footnoteMaven's Answer:

I am putting together posts on style types (listing and links to style guides will be included in this post), when to cite, footnotes vs. endnotes, how to cite in a non-traditional online medium, etc. Though blogs may not be the traditional medium we are familiar with, the forms of citation are still traditional.

I think your question is more easily addressed as a matter of style in online publishing, rather than grounded in traditional citation format.


Thank you for your question Terry. I hope the upcoming series of posts will help you make informed decisions regarding citing your sources.

Not everyone may agree with my interpretation of the rules. Fine citing minds may disagree. Is there a definitive answer? If there is a footnoteGod, as opposed to a Maven, then perhaps we will find that definitive answer. Until then, the footnoteMaven will continue to attempt to do her best.

Note: The footnoteMaven has all of Elizabeth Shown Mills' books and QuickSheets and refers to her on a daily basis. She is the standard for all genealogists and family historians and will be discussed in the upcoming posts.

The footnoteMaven's answers are based on the The Chicago Manual of Style 15th ed. rev. (University of Chicago Press, 2003).

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Blogger Terry Thornton said...

Thank you, Maven, for your reply.

Blogging is not formal scholarly writing --- there is no committee nor dean nor "reader of the thesis with large red pencil" to fail us if we get our citations all in a twit! Thank goodness for that!

There is a need, however, to document, document, document, IMHO. And some bloggers use beautiful citations based upon those patterns learned in graduate school --- others makes up a format which varies from time to time --- and others don't document enough to know what format they would follow.

I read one blog the other day and the writer said she was not going to list any citations in her blog! YIPES! I think it would be worse to have too few rather than to have too many citations. And in my opinion, a poorly done citation is better than no citation.

I appreciate your efforts to educate us in the modern use of citations in a blogging world. I look forward to seeing your posts on this important and timely subject. Thanks.

In the meanwhile, I do hope that you will remain my "Dear Miss Footnote Person." LOL!

October 19, 2007 at 5:15 PM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...

Thanks for keeping me honest!

Any documentation that allows us to find a source is better than no documentation at all! I could not agree more.

You can tell by the set of the spectacles on my nose that I am into precision with regard to my footnotes.

Readers of this blog, however, have certainly noted that even I tend to slack on occasion.

And as one of my readers noted, I and all other GeneaBloggers bow down to the phenomenal work of Elizabeth Shown Mills.


October 19, 2007 at 5:39 PM  
Blogger Craig Manson said...


I always recommend that the standard citation forms be supplemented with a copyright notice when large portions of copyrighted material are used. I think including the copyright notice shows that the user respects the copyright and actually may bolster the case for “fair use.” The copyright info, of course, should be in the source material. But if it's not there, then copyrights registered or renewed after 1978 can be found easily at the U.S. Copyright Office's search site at

For Good Vibrations, the copyright information is:
Copyright ©1966 & 1978, Brian Wilson and Mike Love

As to these online lyrics sites, some are better than others. Some are wildly inaccurate! So it's particularly important, as you say, to include the Web address so others can find it.

Thanks for your focus on citation issues! It's a real service to our community.

October 20, 2007 at 9:45 AM  

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