Documentation, part 6
The thorny issue of Common Knowledge
Why bother with colored footnotes??
help to correct for your own human error, and (as far as possible) to eliminate
embarrassing mistakes from your paper.
- When you find and
use use a source that's really helpful, it's only human nature
to slide into assuming that what the author says is correct,
and that other views may be safely ignored. By double checking
your facts, you are pushing yourself to be objective, AND strengthening
your paper. Remember that if a knowledgeable person reads
your paper and finds obvious factual errors, he or she will assume
that there are other errors that are not obvious--and will reject
your work as unreliable.
- You may find that
the fact you've identified as potentially "common knowledge"
is universally (or almost universally) acknowledged. Good finding. For now, leave
your colored footnotes in place.
- Or you may discover
that there are different views on the fact that you're double
ALSO is a good finding, as you will then modify your paper
to reflect scholarly disagreement. You might simply say that
the issue is a topic of lively discussion--with a footnote to
document or give examples--OR you may find it wise to add a few
sentences, or even a paragraph, in the main text of your paper
to outline the main divergent views of the issue. Remember that
the University of Chicago style
lends itself to putting YOUR observations in the footnote, if
you judge that a given observation is important to a serious
reader, but doesn't really belong in the body of your paper.
You will see examples of this in your reading.
- If you decide to
develop your topic in the future, having your complete documentation all
in one place will save a lot of time.
PLEASE KEEP IN MIND
that if your professor requires this method, taking a shortcut
by fabricating the footnotes is a very serious form of plagiarism
/ academic dishonesty,
because it is evidence of a delibrate effort to deceive. If discovered
probably will earn you a failing grade for the semester--and may raise the
question of whether you belong at your school or college.
There's at least one
more step to take before preparing the final draft of your paper.
But you may want to skip ahead briefly and see how you'll edit the completed colored
footnote version of your paper before returning to a discussion
of the reason for using colored footnotes.
© Jan Mainzer