Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. I was recently penalized by my history professor for conforming to the CMOS even though we are required to do so. His comment: “Footnotes require a full reference for the first citation of a source—then subsequent footnotes/endnotes utilize the form you employed.” I appealed, citing CMOS. In reply, my appeal was summarily denied: “Sorry, but there is no history prof I know who would accept footnotes in that form at the undergraduate or graduate level . . . just the Americans being their usual sloppy selves, I guess. . . . If I teach the course again I will have to present a more rigorous set of rules, of the sort employed in actual practice.” Your comment would be appreciated.

A. I doubt that comment from a Chicago editor would make an impression on your professor, who seems rather sure of himself. Students are always at the mercy of their professors, who may consider any changes to be a sign of decaying standards, even changes designed to make text more concise or consistent or reader-friendly. The fact is, there are contexts where full citations at the first instance are important (for instance, if offprints are likely to be made of individual chapters without the inclusion of the bibliography), but in other contexts, they can be considered a duplication of effort. Your professor has admitted fault in not giving clear instructions, but to be safe, perhaps next time you can ask for approval of your citation method before you finish your paper.