Answering Citation Questions with Marjory Jardine

Did you know that between 15-20% of questions that come to AskAway are citation questions?

To learn more about answering citation questions, we interviewed Marjory Jardine, an AskAway service provider at the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC), who has a knack for answering APA questions. Marjory shares what she enjoys about chat reference and citations, tips for tricky citation questions, and some of her favourite guides.

Hi Marjory. Can you introduce yourself?

Hi there. I work as a Reference and Instruction Librarian at JIBC. Prior to working at JIBC, I worked in special libraries (forest products, health care) and a part-time stint at SFU.

How long have you staffed AskAway and what do you enjoy about the work?

Believe it or not, I think I was one of the inaugural "chat reference" librarians when Ask Us Live was introduced as a shared service between SFU and UVIC in 2005. It was such a new concept at the time, it was fun to be involved! My background wasn't strong on citations, so it was a great way to get thrown into it!

I enjoy AskAway for many reasons: the variety of questions, learning about other institutions and their resources and services, helping students from different places, the collegiality of all the AskAwayers - couldn't find a nicer bunch of online colleagues!

I've heard that you look forward to citation questions. What do you enjoy about helping with citations on AskAway?

Yes, I admit it, although it is kind of weird to look forward to citation questions.

What do I like about them? If they are APA, I feel pretty comfortable as I know there are so many great guides out there. I like the many teachable moments that come with citation questions. Students are usually so thankful for the support - often, they are on the right track but just need a bit of help refining their citations. And, sometimes, they are way off-track, and it's fun to see the lightbulb go on when we can steer them in the right direction.

I like that I often learn something new with each question. Seeing the types of questions that students have helps me help them (and our JIBC students) better in the future. If I start to see a trend for a type of citation, or one I've never come across, I'll make a note to add that example to our APA Subject Guide.

Other styles are a bit tougher for me, as we only use APA at the JIBC. Luckily, we have print copies of MLA and Chicago I can refer to. I really rely on college/university guides for the non-APA questions!

How do you approach citation questions on AskAway?

I breathe a sigh of relief if it's APA. If it's a different style, I usually head to the shelf, grab the appropriate manual, then open the online guide from the student's college/university.

I ask lots of clarifying questions such as "where did you find the resource (print, online, database)?" If the student can provide me with a direct link, I will look it up so that I know I am looking at the same thing.

I usually provide explanations if it's something the student might question. For example, in APA, why is the date shown differently for books/journals vs newspapers/magazines? Or, why do you sometimes provide a retrieval date and other times not? I find that students actually like to know some of the background behind the guidelines.

Do you have any tips to share with service providers who are answering tricky citation questions?

Sometimes an exact example will not be available, so use your best judgment and combine several examples.

Remember that one main point of citation is to show your reader where you found the information. As long as that is covered, then you are well on your way.

This is my favorite quote from one of the APA Style Blog Experts, Paige Jackson, on September 24, 2009. Although Paige is referring to a specific question on when to use a homepage URL or a full document URL, I think the comment is valid in many situations:

Don't belabor the issue - make an informed guess ... and move on!

Never hurts to ask a colleague if they are sitting next to you or of course through Campfire.

Beyond your library's citation guides, what are some of your favorite guides or websites that you would recommend to AskAwayers?

Thanks Marjory! As always, if you have any questions or tips to share, contact the AskAway Admin Centre.