Citations!

Docuseek2 rolled out a new citation feature for users last month. Users can generate citations, both for reference lists and to use inline, in the major formats including American Psychological Association (both 5th and 6th editions), University of Chicago, Turabian and Modern Language Association. The tool is available on the Credits tab of a film’s information page. The citation information is mostly pulled from the film’s MARC record. Detailed information about the how we implement each citation format can be found on our Citations help wiki page.

Citation tool screen shot

The late Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers etc., since updated and revised by University of Chicago editorial staff et al., lists several reasons for citations: giving credit to those whose work has informed our work; to assure readers of the accuracy of facts (or at least provide a path for vetting our work); to indicate to readers the research tradition that informs our work; and to help readers follow or extend our research.

Citing films presents some issues as to who we are actually giving credit to. I remember dimly somewhere in film criticism there being a spectrum of ideas about responsibility for a film. At one end is the notion that films are collective products — many people contribute to film production, and so the film is a social product reflecting a collective perspective. At the other end of the spectrum is the notion of the auteur, and the film expresses the vision of (usually) the director, the director-as-author.

APA citations are common in the social and physical sciences, where identification of individual authorship is perhaps more important. So APA citations start with identifying the author or authors. APA citations carry over the importance of “authorship” to films, implying an auteurship disposition towards film. Robert Perrin’s Pocket guide to APA style, referring to the APA 5th edition (2001), writes “an entry for a motion picture begins with the producer’s or director’s name” (emphasis added). The example for a motion picture in his guide lists only a director. The 2010 6th edition of the APA Publication Manual is vaguer, and simply states “for a motion picture, use the following format”, with an example listing the producer, and then the director.

Personally I like the simpler 5th edition version. For many films, there are multiple people in the producer role, and often in the case of documentaries, multiple directors, leading to a confusing citation full of ampersands. So Docuseek2 provides both a 5th edition version (director when available; if not, producer if available) and a 6th edition version (listing producers and directors as “authors”).

MLA citations, on the other hand, start with the title of the work, emphasizing the work itself over the people responsible for it. MLA tends to be used more in the humanities, and perhaps this format reflects a different role for the citation in those disciplines. The MLA Style Manual does say that if the reason for citing the work is the role of a specific individual (e.g emphasizing an actor or writer’s effort), the reference should start with that person’s name.

The Chicago Manual of Style describes two citation types, straddling the APA and MLA styles. Docuseek2 uses the Author-Date style. While U of Chicago references start with key personnel (usually directors), interestingly it does not call for identifying the role that the people play. Turabian, which is more or less derived from the Chicago style, does call for the role (e.g. “dir.” for director).

Docuseek2 has several films from the 1960s and 1970s that opt for a collective responsibility for the work, identifying the personnel equally as “filmmakers” rather than the more specific “director”, “producer” etc., or opting for an organization (e.g. Kartemquin Films) as the responsible party.

All of which indicates, like just about everything else, that there is an ideology inherent in citations.

Any feedback on our citations is welcome. Email us with questions or comments.

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We support American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), University of Chicago and Turabian styles of citation. We actually support two versions of APA, one version as described in the 5th edition of their Publication Manual; and a version as described in their 6th edition of their Publication Manual.

There is a fairly detailed write-up about we construct the citations, and some decisions we needed to make between the style guidelines and the data we have available on the Citations page of our help wiki.