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The unexpected rabbit hole of typo fixing in citations...

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By Headbomb

Today's column is a follow up to last issue's Tips and Tricks column on how to fix citations with automated tools. This time, automated tools are not enough, and so – inspired by last month's How to research an image – I'm going to take you down the rabbit hole of a "simple" typo fix, and how to research citations in general.

The culprit

WP:JCW/TYPO is a listing of citations containing likely typos. It is part of a family of "maintenance" listings covering various potential issues related to the |journal= parameters of citation templates. I try my best to clear these issues every time the compilation is updated, but there are very, very many issues and, well... people keep making mistakes. So even if I manage to clear them all, I only have to wait a bit to be presented with a slew of new issues.

On 13 August 2022, following the identification of The Women's Journal as a typo for The Woman's Journal, one entry got added to the listing:

Rank Target Entries (Citations, Articles) Total Citations Distinct Articles Citations/article


41 Woman's Journal 1 1 1.000

The compilation listed that this typo is found in |journal= once (the first 1 in "1 in 1"), in one article (the second 1 in "1 in 1"). This article is linked for convenience: Grace Hazen, who was an American jewelry designer. Prior to fixing, the problem citation was

Foster, Isabel (October 1925). "She Speaks in Gold". The Women's Journal. X (7): 16, 39.

used to back up the claim that Hanzer studied at the Pratt Institute for a while.

Simple fix right? Simply change The Women's Journal for The Woman's Journal and call it a day!

Wrong.

Digging deeper

Digging up citations is messy work.

Naively thinking I had fixed the typo, I wanted to add a link to a free version of the article. I tried a few Google searches:

The first three search came empty at the time of writing (save for the Hanzer article), but the fourth one found something. A Google Books entry about the supposed 10th volume of The Woman's Journal. Sadly, there is little publicly available text, but it is searchable in the "From inside the book" box. I figured I wouldn't have much luck but wanted to at least confirm that the title of the article, pages, and author were right, so I simply searched for Foster... no luck. But then I noticed something. While Google Books listed this as The Woman's Journal, Volume 10, much like I had expected after the simple typo fix, the image of the cover was rather blurry. And I couldn't make out The Woman's Journal, but rather The Woman's C[blurry mess] or The Woman's G[blurry mess]. Could this typo be reflective of a bigger error? Is a different publication meant? The Women's Gazette, maybe?

Those that already followed the link to The Woman's Journal may already know what the answer is. In 1925, the date of the article "She Speaks in Gold" was supposedly printed, the title of the publication was not The Woman's Journal, but rather The Woman Citizen.

Hope?

Digging deeper...er

Let's search for "The Woman Citizen" volume 10 this time. This is significantly more promising than all our previous searches. The first result is an unrelated publication on Amazon. But the second result? A full issue of The Woman Citizen on the Internet Archive. It's the wrong issue, but of the correct volume. Could other issues be archived? Scrolling down to the metadata section reveals a semi-obscure "pub_womans-journal" link, which can be understood as machine-like shorthand for "publication: woman's journal" or similar. Following the link brings us to a collection of microfilms for the years 1917 to 1931. We are in luck, being interested in the year 1925. Filtering by year easily lets us find the 7th issue.

Jackpot!

I will note here that the Internet Archive is a phenomenal resource for old magazines and newspapers, not just archived webpages. They often have entire back catalogues freely available, which can be searched for specific pieces of text. You can often find the article you are looking for just based on keywords and the year of publication, or by searching the author's name.

The ultimate fix

Just like the initial citation indicated, our article is indeed on page 16, continued on page 39, but it also continues until page 40. Now, equipped with the proper title, full page range, and a link... we can perform the ultimate fix!

Foster, Isabel (October 1925). "She Speaks in Gold". The Woman Citizen. 10 (7): 16, 39–40.

A hidden beauty is now on display for everyone to enjoy: a very convenient free link, to an almost 97 year old article, from a defunct publication, verifying that Ms. Hazen had indeed studied at the Pratt Institute for 6 months. Readers and librarians everywhere rejoiced, not having to do this digital excavation work themselves.

Phew!


Tips and Tricks is a general editing advice column written by experienced editors. If you have suggestions for a topic, or want to submit your own advice, follow these links and let us know (or comment below)!

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That's really if you believe ISSNs and OCLCs have value in citations. And I personally don't. If you follow them, you won't find the article you're looking for. Others disagree, but I find them to be clutter at best and Worldcat to be a very low quality database in general (with multiple redundant OCLCs for the same publication each taking you to variations of metadata). Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 04:09, 1 September 2022 (UTC)[reply]
I for one want all of that high-quality metadata in one place, however cumbersome. Otherwise we're just lead to a disambiguation function in... another place... Which is a whole other layer of cumbersome. This may be a philosophical difference, but citations should be one-stop shopping. The fuller, the better. kencf0618 (talk) 12:47, 2 September 2022 (UTC)[reply]





       

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