Sunday, March 20, 2011

Using Shortened Links in Research Papers

I'm working furiously on a research paper that has a submission deadline of April 1st. I'm hoping all of my work will pay off with an invitation to present my findings at a major research conference scheduled for later in the fall. That, of course, will help with my road to tenure.

That's not what I'm wondering about, though. While referencing a news report that I'm using in my paper, I copied the web link so I could put it in a footnote. Then I stared at it for a couple of moments. It's long. And ugly. You know the kind I'm talking about. Something like this:

http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?DBId=5197&LASTSRCHMODE=1&RQT=575
(This is actually from my dissertation bibliography.)


As I was staring at that long link, I wondered about using a shortened one. That would save space and it wouldn't be as ugly on the page. Besides, if reviewers are reading a printed version of your paper, and they want to check your source, you don't want to make them type in a 50+ character web address. 


I've been using http://bit.ly/ to shorten links for my tweets, so I decided to investigate it a bit. My greatest concern is about permanency. I don't want to create a shortened link for something and then have it go away in a couple of years. bit.ly says I don't have to worry about that. Their links are designed to be permanent. Well, what if bit.ly goes away eventually? What happens then? They have an answer for that, too.

Okay. I'm satisfied with these explanations. So I took that humongous link and chopped it down to a nice compact size for my footnote. I did do one other thing, though. The bit.ly address doesn't show the root website. So in addition to the bit.ly-generated link address to the article, I included the news organization's main website, as well. That way, if a reviewer wanted to check the site for other things, he or she can do it.

Now I'm curious if anyone else has used a link shortener for academic references -- or if you've been told not to. If you have some experience with this, or a comment, I'd like to hear from you.

2 comments:

  1. I think this is a great idea, but I don't know how my profs would respond. I may run this by them.

    I'm hoping for bigger changes in citations in the future, though. As papers move more into the digital realm, there will be no need for little notes at the "bottom" of the digital page. The citation could be embedded into the document.

    There still may be a little superscript number to indicate a citation, but you can simply hover (or click) to discover what the source is.

    And if that source is some other digital document, you can jump straight to it without retyping a long, convoluted URL.

    I have a feeling this may be several years away, though. It's hard to shake the 8.5x11 paradigm.

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  2. We're supposed to use doi addresses whenever possible. Not as short as bit.ly but not as long as the others. I'm not sure if ProQuest uses those, though. I've mostly seen them with journal articles.

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