Phi Beta Cons

Foot Not

Mark Bauerlein in the WSJ on the academic ritual of footnoting:

Authors clog the pages with notes not to facilitate peer review, but to demonstrate their place at the table, their ability to speak an obscure language that few bother to translate for the world at large.

Canny novices discover the game early in graduate school. Load up your papers and chapters with references, position your work against a dozen figures in the subfield, for every major point give a minilineage of precursors, and sprinkle allusions to Big Thinkers such as Michel Foucault (and, of course, your local mentors). Readers won’t examine the notes closely. They’ll just chalk up the lines by number and names, and recognize you as a legit practitioner.

He goes on to suggest a solution: digital citation.

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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