When scholars think about the definition of a scholarly paper or article, they are likely to think in terms of an argument, first, how the argument will be structured, second and finally, representing the argument’s structure in the conventional formats of the discipline. In terms of structure, scholarly argument, depending on the discipline, may include all or some of the following: abstract, introduction, thesis, main argument, conclusions, data tables, data graphs, mathematical expressions, illustrations, references, bibliography. While other documents—a corporate annual report, for example—may involve many of these, none of them define the document. A scholarly document, in contrast, is defined by some regimen of citation in the form of footnotes, endnotes, parenthetical citations, or parenthetical references to an accompanying bibliography. Documenting the sources of a researcher’s ideas and recording the provenance of evidence are essential; without them, the paper or article fails the scholarship test.
Scholars begin learning the process and format of citation early on. Most hight school students cannot escape learning the rudiments in high school, again at college or university, and, perhaps, more elaborately in graduate school. For much of modern scholarship, the typewriter dictated the format of citation. Because of the machines constraints, scholars learned the tedious methods of inserting superscripted marks and judging the space for footnotes. The advent of the the personal computer obviated much of the tedium. A scholar could rearrange, add, subtract reference marks and their collateral text as well as move back and forth between endnotes and footnotes, and the word processing application would obliging renumber the reference marks and reformat the text. And so matters rested until the advent of the web and scholars’ concomitant desire to make their research available.
Almost immediately, researchers discovered that scholarship on the web was no easy task. Bibliographies were difficult to format; superscripted endnote or footnote reference marks were possible but unsightly. Improvements in (X)HTML and CSS ameliorated the situation but not by much. Citations of any kind remained intractable and bibliographies, tedious. Why is this so? What circumstances contribute to these difficulties? (X)HTML fails to implement the basic structural elements of scholarship. Although the language seemingly accommodates scholarship’s basics, elements, such as blockquote, q, cite, and superscripted references—the hallmarks of scholarship are utterly missing, partially implemented, or realized unevenly across browsers. (Part 1 of 3)