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Re: electronic references (long)

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  • Re: electronic references (long)

    Dear BIOMCH-L and BACKS-L readers,

    Several weeks ago I posed a question here about referencing
    electronic mail information. The engineering library here at
    UPittsburgh provided much help as did several BIOMCH-L and
    BACKS-L readers. Thank you to all who responded.

    First is a repost of my original question(s) followed by a
    summary of the resoponses:

    >Recently I wanted to reference some information I recieved
    >over the network and I realized that I did not know how to
    >do this properly. What I am soliciting, or starting a
    >discussion of, is how to reference information received on
    >email or through listservers. When are these references
    >valid? Should the information be published elsewhere first?
    >Should it be done under a newspaper/magazine-type format or
    >should there be an "electrnic format?"
    >I will post a summary of responses.

    The current thinking is that if the information is _not_
    pubically archived, it should be listed as something akin to
    "personal communication." I do not like calling it personal
    as that implies to me that it was a conversation or phone
    call between two people, whereas a list or bulletin board is
    read by many persons. I suggest that "electronic
    communication" be used with the connotation being that it was
    something not archived.

    If it is archived there are several formats to use. All of
    them ask to include Author, Affiliation, Title (or Subject:
    ), recipient (person or group), mailsystem (internet, AOL,
    SprintMail, etc.), date, length (in number of screens --
    typically 24 lines per screen, or in number of lines), and
    Department of Health and Human Services/Public Health
    Service/National Institutes of Health. They have an entire
    chapter dedicated to referencing electronic information
    (chapter XII). Their address is:

    National Library of Medicine
    Reference Section
    Bethesda, MD 20894

    There are probably several other recommended formats
    available from different organizations. I did receive email
    indicating that the topic of electronic referencing is a
    "hot" topic among librarians and publishers of journals and
    other scientific publications. But, at this time, there is
    no consensus as to the "correct" format.

    Several related topics were discussed in the responses I
    received. One concerns the worthiness of the reference.
    Many publishers will not allow a "personal communication"
    reference. I agree with this sentiment and I suggest that if
    it is not archived, it should not be used. Any comments or

    Another topic is whether permission should be requested from
    the original author. To me, this point is moot if the
    information is publically archived. If a "personal
    communication" reference is allowed, then it is prudent to
    get permission from the author in my opinion. However, it
    was mentioned that the internet is in the public domain and
    that information received from it is public.

    Finally, the topic of "wasting internet bandwidth" came up in
    the responses. I admit that I was as negligent as several
    other posters in that I found it easier to post a question
    here rather than researching it first. The librarians here
    at UPittsburgh were aware of the problems with this kind of
    referencing and were able to provide many answers to my
    questions very quickly. I should have gone there first. So,
    in closing, I offer the suggestion, with my mistake as a good
    lesson, that the next time anyone is interested in finding
    more information about a topic to do your homework first.
    Recently a post came over BIOMCH-L that not only asked for
    help, but told where they had looked and what references were
    helpful. I feel that is the format which should be used in
    the future when requesting information. The concept, "think
    and research before you post," would reduce the problem of
    "wasting internet bandwidth." Apologies to those offended.

    Thanks again to all those who responded,

    Dan Baker
    Spine Mechanics Laboratory
    Dept. of Orthopaedic Surgery
    University of Pittsburgh