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Should Google Change Our Standards for Attribution of Quotes?

Say that you're writing a book, a magazine article, or some other work in a medium that (1) doesn't allow hyperlinking, and (2) discourages footnoting. And say that you want to quote a phrase you much like — for instance, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

Naturally, you should quote it, to make clear that you're not claiming authorship. But must you give credit to the author, for instance, "as L.P. Hartley wrote, '...'"? In an earlier time, I would think you should, unless the line was so cliché that its source would be familiar to most readers. (By the way, should it have mattered whether the author was long-dead?) After all, you ought to give credit where credit is due.

But these days, for many such quotes, the attribution is only a google search away — not much harder, generally speaking, than looking up the quote in an endnote, which would be considered a perfectly acceptable way to give credit in those media that allow endnotes. So assume that the google search does indeed yield the proper attribution. Does that relieve you of the obligation to mention the author in your work (again, assuming you include the quotes)? Or should you still mention the author's name somewhere, given that not everyone will be reading your piece with a computer around, or perhaps based on some deeper inherent obligation to give credit in your own work? Or might the ethical question be moot, because the text without the attribution — for instance,

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." Among other things, they speak a foreign language....

-- looks clumsy enough that you ought to add "In L.P. Hartley's words" or some such just to make the text flow better?

UPDATE: Well, there's remarkable unanimity in the comments, and they all answer the question in the title with "no." Fortunately for me, I generally write in media where footnotes and endnotes are allowed, so I can avoid the "As x says" locution and yet give full credit directly in my own work. In any case, thanks for the feedback!

Steve:
I don't see why Google should alter this in the slightest, nor why it's kosher to assume that your reader is sitting in front of a computer terminal where he can look up the source of any mysterious quote. Google may not be much harder on the reader than an endnote (actually, it strikes me as considerably less convenient), but the endnotes are all in one place, while you have to run a Google search each and every time an issue comes up. Why not show your reader a little courtesy?
6.14.2007 8:30pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
If we're thinking about the reader, omitting the attribution may make the piece flow more smoothly, and thus be more courteous to the reader. A few readers might be curious about who wrote the quoted material, but for most the information is irrelevant.

The question, I think, is whether including the attribution is necessary as a matter of courtesy or fairness to the author of the quote, not to the reader.
6.14.2007 8:39pm
Antares79:
Of course give attribution following a quote. It's an incentive for people to say and write memorable things, that they may be honored for antiquity.
--Antares79
6.14.2007 8:40pm
Paco McDooby:
Search engine indexes and web pages are more fluid and less permanent than most printed works. Relying on Google searches for attribuation runs a significant risk of losing the citation over time.
6.14.2007 8:40pm
Malcolm (mail) (www):
In short: what Steve said.

At length: If I'm reading a paper -- something that is actually on paper, so hyperlinks aren't appropriate -- then I'd like some context in what I'm reading. I might not recognise the quote, yet still recognise the reputation of the speaker in some domain. I don't want to have to read in front of a search engine just to work out if an author is quoting his sister-in-law or Thomas Jefferson and the answer to that question will change the article. Having that context on the first reading is not an unreasonable request.
6.14.2007 8:45pm
Steve:
If we're thinking about the reader, omitting the attribution may make the piece flow more smoothly, and thus be more courteous to the reader.

But I thought we were putting it in an endnote.

If we don't have endnotes, I think a brief attribution is standard, and has been for years, and as such won't cause the typical reader even a moment of hesitation.

It's not entirely about the reader, of course; it's also about giving fair credit.
6.14.2007 8:46pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Malcolm: Naturally, if the author wants to invoke the quoted person's reputation, he'll mention the person's name. But in many situations, the author just wants to use a cool phrase (without, of course, claiming it as his own); the quoted person's reputation is irrelevant. The quote I give in the text (from L.P. Hartley, a writer who is hardly a household name, I suspect) is an example.
6.14.2007 8:47pm
David Matthews (mail):
Putting in quotes, without access to attribution, essentially says, "OK, I'll admit that this isn't mine, but whose it actually is doesn't matter a flying fig. In fact, the author is such a nobody that I won't waste your time having to read her/his name. The smooth flow of my prose is more important than the source of the quote -- although I'll admit that I did have to swipe the quote in order to improve my prose. But if you really care, GOOGLE it." That hardly seems to be courteous to the original source.
6.14.2007 8:55pm
JB:
What others have said. Breaking out google to look something up is a greater disruption to reading flow than having the author attributed in the piece.

Plus, if the writer is at all witty, it may not be clear that the quote is a quote of someone else, to be googled, rather than the author's own wit.

This really is a nonissue.
6.14.2007 9:01pm
wb (mail):
From the point of view of an editor, I would judge that not presenting the citation is 1) unfair to the originator, 2) contrary to the ethics policies of my journal and 3) a sign of author laziness
6.14.2007 9:44pm
billb:
1. Endnotes, numbered endnotes (in contrast to author/year).

2. The web isn't static. Even if Google returns the right answer near the top when you write the quote, there's no guarantee that it will in 10 years or a hundred years. By putting the relevant information in your writing, you save it for posterity, and you don't burden the reader with searching just to find out who the author is.
6.14.2007 10:14pm
maurile (mail) (www):
This doesn't seem too disruptive:

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." (L.P. Hartley.) Among other things, they speak a foreign language...
6.14.2007 10:25pm
Jay Myers:
One thing that has been overlooked is the frequent misattribution of quotations on the internet. As an example, a large number of websites attribute to George W. Bush malapropisms actually made by Dan Quayle and Al Gore. A Google search on a quoted phrase could turn up multiple possibilities and the sites ranked highest by Google aren't necessarily going to be the most reliable sources. It is always best to include the source of the quote in order to ensure that your reader has the correct information.
6.15.2007 1:38am
theobromophile (www):
Endnotes (should) contain a complete citation (author, title, page, year, et cetera). You're already conceding a lot of territory by only listing the author's name.
6.15.2007 4:17am
JSM:
Should Google Change Our Standards for Attribution of Quotes? No. As Steve said, fair credit should be given. "Flow" for the reader is not compromised by proper attribution, and if a reader thinks it is compromised, then screw 'em.
6.15.2007 8:41am
IMM:
If we're thinking about the reader, omitting the attribution may make the piece flow more smoothly, and thus be more courteous to the reader. A few readers might be curious about who wrote the quoted material, but for most the information is irrelevant.

Indeed. This is why readers who are disinterested in that source material skim such material; I don't read the 3 to 10 names and dates given in each reference in an APA-styled document ("Many researchers (Myers, 1981; Singh, Johnson, et al., 2002; Barstone &Hucks, 2003; Kimmerling, 2003; Jones, Richards, et al., 2005) have noted that..."). To split hairs, yes, my eyes have to skim past this in-text citation material to get back to the thread of the sentence, but that's fairly standard practice for readers of these documents. They *know* that the doc will use this citation style, and their comfortable skimming past that citation. It's done in a matter of seconds because in-text citations rarely go on for line after line, anyway. The effect is almost non-existent for endnote and footnote citation styles--a number appended to a word, whether mid-sentence or at the end, doesn't interrupt reading. If anything, it seems to me more probable that the reader will *miss* the number entirely and have to backtrack for it in text after reading the note itself first! (Happens to me all the time.)

The question, I think, is whether including the attribution is necessary as a matter of courtesy or fairness to the author of the quote, not to the reader.

I disagree; as a reader, it *is* a courtesy to me to attribute your sources, not just so I know where they came from or that you didn't author them, but so I can see the extent to which you show respect to readers by acknowledging other sources in your work, i.e., writing as a scholar. When I talk with students about citation and plagiarism, some seem to think that quoting material will make their own argument overall appear weaker--the "great" ideas found in the quotes aren't their own, so their actual ideas seem weaker by comparison. What those students don't yet realize is that, as a reader, I respect their argument *more* because they took the time to document their argument and note where those other ideas are coming from. I can't do this when a writer merely puts quotes around material but doesn't bother to include the citation for that source.
6.15.2007 11:00am
IMM:
their comfortable skimming past that citation

That should read, "they're comfortable". Apologies.
6.15.2007 11:03am
markm (mail):
The one time I won't give credit for a quote is when I'm not sure about the actual origin. Often-repeated quotations often turn out to be attributed to many different sources...
6.15.2007 4:38pm