Reading, research and referencing
Learning, teaching and study come from reading. Reading notes and cards are original products.
The writing of a research paper is based on doing research work and doing research work starts with studying literature or library research. After deciding the topic of his or her research, a scholar needs to determine the range of the literature that he or she needs to read among the fundamental and authoritative books, journals and other periodicals in his or her area. The authority of a reference comes from the status that an author or a journal enjoys in the research field. And time is another factor that needs to be considered. As a reference written in too early times might lose its value for reading because it becomes outdated and detached from current developments.
The idea of reading reference in study comes from the basic method of reading any book. A person may read for three different purposes of interest, learning and study. But any of the three will form a specific intent and drive him or her to select and read some of the literature available at present. Such conscious selection is an important step to raise the efficiency of reading.
The references selected for research topic will sometimes be all listed by the researcher in the bibliography in his or her treatise or monograph to convenience other researchers when they select their references. All such information resource that a researcher has read or recommends his or her readers to look up for further reading can be listed in reference list or bibliography. Of course, a researcher will further select from these references in his or her study, so not all of them will be finished in reading. And not all the references that he or she has read might be cited in his or her work. In Chinese national standard about referencing, these selected references are divided into reading references and cited references.
Before computer was invented, there was only printed literature. When a scholar makes uses of the literature in a library, he or she looks up literature with the help of library cards. When he or she reads literature and writes on a notecard to take down important ideas in a reference. At the same time, he or she also lists the information about the reference. He or she may also add his or her own analysis and understanding as notes. This is the so-called critical reading. Such cards are intermediate products in research. They can be used as the materials for writing several papers when gathered together. It is convenient to use them when a scholar writes a paper or a monograph.
The reading practices in traditional Chinese learning can be summarized as an idiom Xun Zhang Zhai Ju (寻章摘句) meaning “looking up chapters and taking out sentences”. This means to gather together related sentences and their annotations in different references and then summarize and classify them to form a type of book known as a variorum, a book of collected notes. Sometimes, scholars even reconstruct a lost book with sentences from other books. In essence, such work means to revise and rebuild a text.
In modern academic research, notecards and, of course more formally, reading notes, are all records on understanding, memorizing, interpreting and analyzing literature. All such work forms a continuation and development of ancient learning traditions. In addition to academic study, notecards and reading notes produced when reading authoritative literature can also be used to compose teaching materials and textbooks for classroom teaching.
In origin, such learning practice comes from the consciousness of a reader on his or her purpose of reading. Namely, in addition to interest or the pleasure in reading experience, a person has the demand to memorize knowledge and to criticize on ideas in a book. At the moment, a reader would take out expressions and sentences, look up other references, write comments and express his or her own ideas.
In addition to printed publications, modern researchers may also use as literature drawings, photographs, maps, records, tape cassettes, radio and television programs, exhibition, live performances and also other types of publications and creative work. All these media and forms for storing information resources appeared before the emerge of computer and became mainstream carrier of knowledge until information digitization started. These media and forms are still in use at present. As they need to be accessed through different channels, the use and list of references are influenced in the process of study.
Among all kinds of printed publications, the most commonly used are books, periodicals, newspapers, dissertations, teaching materials and notes. Books, periodicals, newspapers are the three types of collections of the largest numbers in library. These can be non-academic or academic. All these information resources of academic nature are themselves fruits in academic research. At the same time, they are the materials that need to be read and analyzed in study.
Besides, international and domestic laws, official publications of governments, legal reports, annual reports of corporates, archives, international and national standards, reports of international and social organizations, plays, interviews, news releases, religious texts, entries in dictionaries and exhibition materials, all these texts might not be of any academic nature. But they are used as materials in academic research.
When the information about all these referential materials is written into entries in a reference list, various tiny differences are recorded so that people can specifically identify different types of literature and look them up with convenience.
The kernel of a referencing system is the basic structure of a single entry of reference. In addition to the three primary parts about author, title and publisher, various details as mentioned above needs to be specified. In this way, people can determine which version that the researcher has used among similar editions of a reference. At the same time, as a uniform style in layout needs to be used for all entries in a reference list for printing, the order of lining up various information and the location of each piece of them needs to be specified. Moreover, the use of various punctuations needs to be defined. In this way, a clear and consistent format and style can be created for all the entries in a reference list.