Forums:Policy discussion re: page numbers in citations

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Tolkien Gateway > Forums > Policy discussion re: page numbers in citations

Hello all,

This has been the cause of some consternation lately as discussed in the Discord:

Editors should make all reasonable attempts to include page numbers in citations.

Laying out my case:

1) This is not stated as formal policy anywhere I can find, rather being advice on a "Help" page. If this is indeed the law of the land, it should be featured as such in TG:Policy.

2) A less-precise reference is better than no reference. I would much rather an editor came to an article in need of citations and added chapter citations than not at all.

3) I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of wiki contributors and readers in 2022 will be reading the works of JRRT in digital editions, which can have wildly varying paginations. The logic that is applied to The Hobbit in the same Help page, "Do not include page numbers in citations, due to the many editions" applies just as well to The Lord of the Rings. I feel it is unnecessarily exclusionary to insist on specifically printed 50th Anniversary page citations when even 50A itself is available in many forms with many paginations.

As such, I propose that the citation policy be added to the actual policy page and changed to the following or something to similar effect:

The purpose of a citation is to direct a reader to the source of a statement made in an article. Tolkien Gateway encourages editors to make the most precise citations possible, but we recognize that there are many editions of Tolkien's works available throughout the world. Many editors and readers do not have access to any given edition of any given work. As such, we encourage editors to include page numbers in their citations if they have the following editions of the following works. Otherwise, Tolkien Gateway accepts citations using paragraph number or even just chapter.

Hyarion recently discovered this site [[1]] which offers an easy-to-use method of generating paragraph-level citations for LOTR, with other works pending. I think citing at the paragraph level is a superior option to citing at the page level, especially for LOTR, but I also recognize that having multiple citation standards in play at once could be confusing and damaging to the value of the project overall.

How do you all feel about this? --Mord 18:17, 31 July 2022 (UTC)

I think in most cases chapter-level citations are fine, and including any acurate citation is a higher priority than pinpointing a page number. I also think that demanding editors acquire a particular expensive edition of LOTR is counterproductive and forms too high a barrier to entry. I don't know if it's true that anyone has been reverting citations just for lacking a page number, but if so, that should stop.
I don't know about the paragraph numbers, though. I've never seen an edition of Lord of the Rings with numbered paragraphs, so paragraph numbers in references don't seem very practically useful. I guess they can still give you an idea of how far into a chapter a reference is, which could save some searching and page-flipping for a reader trying to look up the reference, but they could also produce confusion,or be misinterpreted as page numbers. --Pachyderminator 21:01, 31 July 2022 (UTC)
1) Agree.
2) Also agree. I think nobody will demand editors to apply exclusively references with pagination. Chapters are great if pagination is not available to the editor. MOS can be more specific about this.
3) As far as I know, the pagination of the 50AE is generally the same. Even the HarperCollins e-book has it. I think we should also include pagination for The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, but I've never mentioned it because there is already so much work ahead.
I completely disagree with having references with paragraph numbers, which itself is perfectly valid, proposed very seriously by Arda Structural references. But as you say, implementing a different citation system damages the wiki's consistency, which for me is VERY important. Some can say better paragraphs than nothing, but I say better nothing than mess. --LorenzoCB 21:32, 31 July 2022 (UTC)
I agree with the importance of consistency. However, if we were to hypothetically start this wiki from scratch, what method would we use? I don't think we should feel obligated to use one system just because it's the current one and then be locked into it for the next decade. As for which method is better, I think they are both flawed. Using page numbers from one specific version is something that's difficult to get everyone on board with. I have personally only ever cited to the chapter when editing here. Using paragraph numbers sounds like a good idea to encourage consistency in the long-term, but a major issue with this method is that we can't easily see the numbers in any edition. At the moment, I don't have an opinion about which method might be better and am interested to see where this discussion goes. --Oromë 22:11, 31 July 2022 (UTC)
Often (but not always, of course), in cases such as The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion, the reference in an article is used for a paragraph/section that goes over a storyline covered in that entire chapter. For example: the article on Beren, in which entire paragraphs are referenced to Of Beren and Lúthien. Adding page numbers there would be inconvenient, since the entire "Of Beren and Lúthien" chapter is effectively the reference material; we don't really need a note for every single page.
With books that generally have consistent pagination, I think page numbers are fine, but I don't know about selecting a single specific edition if there are a huge variety of paginations for the same book (do we know how many paginations there are for The Hobbit and The Silmarillion? That might help us make the choice on page numbering). Specializing too much with one edition could confuse editors and readers more than just using chapter references. I do find having page references for the HoMe books incredibly helpful, because flipping through the entire chapters can become exhausting (I still have paper copies, I haven't quite caught up to 2022...). It also makes it clearer exactly which statement is being referred to, since HoMe references in major articles are often for very specific points, such as early names. Chapter-only references work slightly better in books like The Lord of the Rings, where one can usually follow the story to get to the necessary section. I do prefer page numbers over paragraph numbers, myself. And I definitely agree that a chapter reference is far better than no reference at all. --Grace18 23:03, 31 July 2022 (UTC)

Per the consensus of the conversation above, I've made an edit to Help:References#Page numbers. Please feel free to revise or tweak as you see fit.