Kurt Schick wrote a terrific article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education whose thesis is summed up by the impassioned title of piece, “Citation Obsession? Get Over It!”. I haven’t much more to say about the issue except to make a spiel on the following points. (You knew the “except” was coming up, didn’t you?)
One, if the point of citation is so other people can find your sources, then it makes no sense to insist on a particular style of citation. People aren’t going to be able to find your sources any easier because the delimiter between the author’s name and the title of the book is given by a period (.) and not a comma (,) or because your author’s first name is abbreviated (T. and not Theodore), or if the citation is double-spaced, hanging-indented, or a million other things that citation styles insist on to differentiate themselves from their brethren. What makes sources easier to find is a) getting more things to be available electronically, b) accepting hyperlinks as a way to cite this information, and c) making a big push to combat link rot. In fact, as libraries have mass-digitized their collections through efforts like the Hathi Trust and Google Books Library Project and journals have migrated online by way of stable platforms such as JStor, point a) and c) are well underway. What remains is for researchers to decide that what is easy and works (hyperlinking) is not automatically bad for scholarship and that citations don’t have to be done as they have always been simply because “that’s what other people are doing”.
Two, this is not to say there is no justification for formal citation in particular styles. These stylistic citations are a great way to signal i) that one comes from a prestigious college where the intellectual rigor is rigorous, the level of coursework is in the stratosphere, and scholarly communications happen through acronyms like APA, MLA, and XXA and ii) that one is part of a fraternity of scholarship where citations function as the secret handshake identifying members to each other. As I’m solidly in camp i) and hope to soon be in camp ii), I say
T. Books (2011, Dec. 1). Citation. [Web log]. Retrieved from