MET workshops

Righting citing: principles and strategies for editors and translators


Far more than a mere formality, citation is an integral part of scholarly writing that affects message, clarity, and even an author’s credibility. As such, it has implications for translators and editors who help authors create coherent texts. Professionals who provide language support for academic authors are often faced with citation problems ranging from unclear or ineffective use of references to practices that fall into the category of plagiarism. In addition, texts may suffer from the confusing effects of cut-and-paste or "patch" writing. However, it is not uncommon for such problems to be overlooked or for it to be assumed that authors must know how referencing is handled in their fields and never to think of treating it as a textual feature to be examined critically along with grammar, terminology, and general flow of information. Language professionals who are aware of citation issues and who develop skills to recognize and resolve problems will be better equipped to support authors who publish academic articles.

Developers: Iain K. Patten and Mary Ellen Kerans

Facilitator: Iain Patten

Purpose: To raise awareness of incorrect or confusing citation and to practice ways to correct it and identify issues that require negotiation with authors.

Description: The workshop will begin with a short introduction to raise awareness of how citation is used in academic writing and the effect this has on the way in which the text is received. We will then go on to look briefly at the "nuts and bolts" of citation – the style issues associated with different citing systems and their implications for text structure. The main part of the workshop will explore how citation affects the substance of a text and how substantive editing of citing problems can be used to improve elements such as the flow of information and the "voice" of the author. Participants will take a problem-based approach to dealing with citing issues and will consider how to identify changes that need to be negotiated with authors. Discussion of problems will ultimately address the more complex issues presented by minor and more extensive plagiarism, and participants will gain confidence in engaging with them at a textual level in preparation for discussion with authors.

Structure: Following a brief introduction, the workshop will be broadly organized into four sections:
  • citation systems in the 21st century – and widespread misconceptions
  • citing and substantive editing (1) – info placement
  • citing and substantive editing (2) – interweaving voices
  • plagiarism and querying issues
The workshop will take a problem-based approach and a number of different examples and practice tasks will be discussed in each section.

Who should attend? Anyone involved in helping prepare academic texts for publication. While the examples will be mainly drawn from science and medicine, the principles are relevant to other scholarly disciplines. Emphasis will be placed on the work of editors and translators; however, the workshop will also be of benefit to other professionals who support authors with English academic writing, such as teachers of writing or English for academic purposes.

Outcome skills: Following the workshop participants will have developed skills and confidence in three specific areas:
  • spotting a citation problem
  • resolving citation errors
  • preparing to negotiate with authors and correct misconceptions
Participants will be more aware of the place of effective citation in scholarly writing. They will be more sensitive to citation problems in the texts they work with and will have practiced a range of ways to deal with citing problems in texts.

Pre-workshop information:

Citation systems

Participants who are not already familiar with the most common referencing systems, namely the “Harvard” or name/date system and the “Vancouver” or numbered system recommended by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, may wish to acquaint themselves with these systems before the workshop. A brief overview with links to further information is available at the website of the British Medical Association.

Identifying and resolving citation problems

Click the links below to look at the types of examples we will explore to analyse the nature and possible causes of citation problems, the ways in which they can be directly resolved by language professionals, and approaches to explaining them to authors.

Text A
Text B

Plagiarism, a violation of good citing practice
  • What happens when things go badly wrong? Read about an instance of alleged plagiarism in the British Medical Journal that was publicized by the British newspaper The Guardian.
  • A famous case study involving serious and ongoing academic plagiarism was recently discussed in the British Medical Journal. Read this article to gain further insight into some of the complex medical issues around plagiarism. A variety of perspectives on these issues are expressed in the “rapid responses” from readers and related articles available as links at the end.
  • Guidelines for training advanced academic writers to avoid plagiarism can be found in material developed for the US Office of Research Integrity by Miguel Roig, a plenary speaker at METM06.

About the facilitator: Dr. Iain Patten is an independent writing consultant working primarily with researchers in the natural sciences. He originally trained as a biomedical scientist and undertook research in neuroscience and embryology in the UK, USA, and Spain before shifting his attention to research communication. His work focuses primarily on helping authors to understand their own writing process and engage more effectively with it. The goal of this approach is to produce independent writers who are able to generate well-structured, clearly written articles as part of their normal professional activity. In parallel, he provides training and consultancy for group leaders and institute directors designed to help them develop a strategic approach to managing writing and publication and to work effectively with their groups to implement that vision.
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