Citation, Documentation of Sources

Q. After years of using Chicago citation form, I have begun to wonder: What about all the folks who get left out of the citations, who go unrecognized for their work? For example, in a magazine article accompanied by striking and thoughtful illustrations or graphs or pictures, shouldn’t those workers get credit as well as the people who wrote the text? Often it’s those images that stay with us; often they are the only part of an article that people even take in. I guess I can freestyle my citations, but I wondered what your policy on this is. Thanks.

A. Though it’s nice when a footnote gives credit explicitly to one or more creators, the primary purpose of a source citation is to identify—concisely and unambiguously—the source of a quotation or other idea that is not your own. The responsibility for crediting the contributors to such a source lies with the source itself (as on the title page of a book or at the head of an article—or in a credit line that accompanies an illustration).

As you suggest, you can always name additional contributors if you want to. But unless the work of a particular illustrator or other contributor is essential to your reason for having consulted and cited the source—in which case the best place to give credit may be in the text rather than in a source citation—it’s usually best to stick to the basic citation format. Unnamed contributors, including anyone obscured behind et al. (“and others”), will simply have to take comfort in the fact that a source they’ve contributed to has been cited (and, one would hope, consulted).

(The forthcoming 18th edition of CMOS will include an example of how to credit an illustrator in addition to an author in a source citation.)