Design Principles For These Projects
Underlying Principles and Goals
In-text and works cited references are anchor points that can invite readers into a conversation about the text from an informed position. Not all readers have the information privilege or information literacy to acquire primary and secondary sources easily. Making it simple for participants to access a work’s referenced materials smooths others’ path to participation.
Striking a Balance
Increasing Access Efficiency, Longevity, and Transparency
In the Undissertation and Woman in White: Grangerized, my goal is to reduce the number of steps or archive-navigation skills that a participant must depend on to access primary and secondary sources. Where it is possible for me to locate an open-source or unrestricted public domain scan of a referenced text, I’ve made the effort to locate and link directly to this media in place of texts in closed databases. I see this as a form of welcome and inclusion.
Works Cited Considerations
To make user navigation more efficient, I’ve made some adaptations to the Modern Language Association’s 8th-Edition Style Guide. When I have a decently reliable hyperlink that can provide users with immediate information about a book or article, I’ve included it in some form regardless of whether the MLA style guide requests a URL.
My desire to make this text as inclusive as possible for those using screen readers affects where I place my hyperlink within a citation. MLA requests that authors include a hyperlink at the end of a citation where appropriate, so my initial inclination was to make each hyperlink I included clickable. Yet best practices for accessibility suggest that when writers create hyperlinks, they should attach those hyperlinks to semantically meaningful phrases rather than ambiguous verbiage or nonsemantic URL text. The Web Accessibility in Mind team explains this as tied to the ways that screen-readers facilitate nonlinear navigation of a text: “Screen reader users often navigate from link to link, skipping the text in between. Tabbing from link to link is a way of skimming web content, especially if users are trying to find a particular section of a web site” (“Links and Hypertext”). Because I want screen-reader users to access sources of interest to them easily, I’ve attached primary web address links to sources’ titles rather than attaching them to the hyperlink text or identification numbers later in a citation.
Recognizing that some readers may have limited access to paywalled resources, I’ve also included bracketed notes to indicate when a source I have linked to is paywalled or, conversely, when the author has published it as an open-access or Creative Commons licensed resource. My primary motivation for including this addition is to help users see when a text is easily accessible to them. However, in the context of my Undissertation’s discussion of academic inclusivity, these additions have a rhetorical purpose as well. Those readers who have a great deal of information privilege may not recognize how many resources are locked away from other scholars behind paywalls without a clear reminder of that fact. Those readers who have felt jaded because of their lack of information privilege in the past may feel empowered by seeing that many of the authors I cite in these projects make deliberate efforts to share their work openly.
Kezar, Adrianna. “Examining Non-Tenure Track Faculty Perceptions of How Departmental Policies and Practices Shape Their Performance and Ability to Create Student Learning at Four-Year Institutions,” Research in Higher Education, Vol. 54, Issue 5, pp. 571-598. DOI: 10.1007/s11162-013-9288-5. [Paywalled.]
Hyperlink quandaries: should I point participants to a DOI link, an OCLC link, an ISBN, or something else?
In the internet era, digital metadata and web caching tools can help readers access sources more efficiently and freely as possible. However, the decision to use one identifier over another in a source’s titular hyperlink is not neutral.
Three common forms of text identification are Digital Object Identifier (DOI) numbers, Online Computer Library Center Control Numbers (OCN), and International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN).
Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) provide stable links to media. They emerged in the late 1990s as publishers and library organizations recognized that media was becoming available in multiple physical and digital formats (“DOI Introduction”). Because MLA 8th Edition encourages writers to use DOI in place of standard hyperlinks for journal articles. This is one way to avoid link-rot: a DOI link is typically a redirect link that is kept up-to-date. (To illustrate this dynamic using concrete examples, when I click on the DOI link “https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-013-9288-5” in September 2019, my browser automatically redirects to the Springer website page “https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11162-013-9288-5.” If Springer eventually hosts this article on a different webpage, the old DOI address would be connected to a new redirect link (DOI). Many, but not all, articles have a DOI. Some, but not many, books have a DOI.
DOI links are intentionally maintained and widely recognized, making them a useful resource for scholars. A DOI hyperlink provides a useful point of reference if my target audience includes scholars who lack the institutional ability to access many sources but who do have the information literacy or personal network to acquire that source through other channels. Yet because my intended audience also includes students with less information privilege and who are developing information literacy, a DOI link alone may be of limited use. Many DOI links redirect to paywalled article pages owned by publishing companies rather than open-access resources.
International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) are commonly used in commercial contexts, so they have the advantage of a wider nonscholarly and non-US recognition than DOI or OCN. However, ISBN are closely anchored to publication format and platform, meaning that they have less utility for my projects than many other object identifiers.
The ISBN Users’ Manual (2017) highlights the range of ISBN that could be linked to a text, stipulating:
- Where a specific qualifying e-book is available in different underlying file formats such as EPUB, .pdf etc., each different format that is published and made separately available should be given a separate ISBN. If the publication is migrating to a new version of the file format (e.g., EPUB2 to EPUB3), then a separate ISBN is essential if both versions are available simultaneously or if retailers and customers need to distinguish the versions. (ISBN Users’ Manual 18)
- Where a proprietary file format or DRM is used that ties a version to a specific platform, device or software (reading system), separate ISBNs should be used for each such version. However, where digital publications are being supplied by a retailer that is the sole provider of e-books in a proprietary format that can only be bought through their own websites (e.g. Amazon Kindle, Apple i-books) and that retailer does not require ISBNs, it may not be necessary to assign ISBNs to those versions. However, it may be useful to do so for tracking sales or for listing publications in third-party databases of available e-books. If ISBNs are assigned, they should be unique to that version. (ISBN Users’ Manual 18)
When I include a supplemental identification number in a citation, my goal to provide my readers with an easy way to access my source material. The proliferation of different ISBN for different file formats could challenge this use case. To provide a concrete example: if I were assigning an ISBN to a monograph, I would need one number for the EPUB file version and different numbers for the print version and pdf versions respectively. If I wrote a citation that included the ISBN for the EPUB version of the book but for some reason the EPUB version had been largely removed from the internet, a reader who didn’t understand how ISBN worked might not realize that a PDF version of the text was still easily available elsewhere.
OCLC Control Numbers (OCN) are numbers that the Online Computer Library Center assigns to texts within WorldCat, a large-scale database that helps users see which nearby libraries carry a text they are interested in.
Ultimately, I chose to prioritize DOI links first, then OCN numbers, and to leave ISBN numbers out.
“The DOI® System.” Doi.org, Updated 5 March 2018, https://www.doi.org.
“ISBN Users’ Manual, International Edition (7th Edition).” International ISBN Agency, London, 2017. ISBN: 978-92-95055-12-4.