There are many, many parts of my job that I love. Teaching students the mechanics of a citation style is not one of them. I don’t mind teaching about many aspects of citations, including effective use of in-text citation, or even technology sessions on using tools like Mendeley. But teaching the basic, “this is what an NLM article citation style looks like” is one of my least favorite parts of my job.
This is partly because I can completely sympathize with students when they complain about the preponderance of citation styles – it doesn’t make much practical sense.
It also probably because my style of teaching about citation styles isn’t very exciting.
My basic plan starts with a PowerPoint presentation in which I discuss the following:
- Why we use specific styles – it isn’t just to annoy undergraduates, it is to facilitate clear communication among scholars.
- Specific rules for articles, books or websites in the selected citation style – especially the bits that tend to mess with students
- Resources to make all of this easier – “bibliography” output buttons in databases, references managers like Mendeley and Zotero
This is normally followed by an in-class practice session where they are given a sample article, website, book etc. and asked to create a citation.
I follow up with a homework assignment via the LMS in which I ask them to create a properly formatted citation for a resource they will use in an upcoming assignment. I provide feedback and they should have at least one good citation for their project.
I believe that this information is useful to students, and the faculty who ask for such a session believe it is worth giving up class time, but it isn’t the most interesting.
So I put the question to the universe – what are some teaching strategies that can make the boring fundamentals of citation styles more engaging (to both me and my students)?