Google Kills Need for URLs – MLA Latest
21 March 2009 1 Comment
As usual Kent Anderson at ‘the scholarly kitchen’ is spotting new trends in publishing in a recent blog post. He leads with the recommendation in the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers that print no longer be treated as the default medium. Rather the MLA suggest ‘the medium of publication should be included in each works cited entry’, a fairly major change.
However much more significant in my view is the recommendation about the use of URLs in cited entries. They point to the well-known facts that a URL is likely to rot, ie no longer be functional, over time, and people rarely will actually attempt to actually type a URL into a browser. My feeling is that the latter point is valid but since I and others will more usually be reading an electronic version of every work, clicking on the link will usually work or a simple copy-and-paste will suffice.
The first problem of link rot is the more serious. In detail:
the MLA has ceased to recommend inclusion of URLs in citing Web-based works – unless the instructor requires it or a reader would likely be unable to locate the source otherwise. “Inclusion of URLs has proved to have limited value… for they often change, can be specific to a subscriber or a session of use, and can be so long and complex that typing them into a browser is cumbersome and prone to transcription errors. Readers are now more likely to find resources on the Web by searching for titles and authors’ names than by typing URLs
What the MLA is saying is that if the URL fails people will simply use Google or their favourite search service to search for title or name fragments to locate the cited work. This is something with which I agree and it will force me to think twice about using URLs in citations in future.