Creation of knowledge is the golden key to progress. But it cannot take place without research. Ours is a society that has generally been averse to research. It is, however, heartening to note that things are looking up now and issues related to research now commonly surface at different forums.

As for Urdu’s literary research, we have a steady flow of published research dissertations and research journals. Most of the Urdu departments at our universities now regularly publish research journals and try to meet the criterion set by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for accreditation. One such research journal is ‘Tehqeeqi zaviye’ published by the Department of Urdu and Pakistani Languages, Al-Khair University, Bhimber, Azad Kashmir. Launched in January 2013, the biannual journal has already brought out its fourth issue. The journal carries a number of invaluable research articles contributed by some well-know scholars. But today I would like to highlight an issue that its editor, Dr Rasheed Amjad, has raised in his two editorials: the citation styles used in Urdu dissertations and research papers at our universities and the standard of research.

The first issue that every researcher has to settle before he or she starts writing research paper or thesis is: what citation style am I going to follow?

Generally speaking, there are two different styles of citations used in the research works of sciences and humanities. One is referred to as Parenthetical System or Harvard Referencing, in which the references to the sources used in research are mentioned in the body of the text of the research work. The name of the author, the year of publication and the page number/s of the works cited are mentioned within the brackets and bibliographical details are given at the end of the paper.

The other system of citation is known as Vancouver System (a committee of experts met in Vancouver, Canada, and ironed out the differences, hence the name). This system favours assigning numbers to the portions of text that need citations and then giving bibliographical details in the numbered footnotes (notes given at the bottom of the page) or endnotes (notes given at the end of the paper/chapter/book).

This system, too, has slightly different styles. For example, some researchers say all the bibliographical details should be given in the footnotes/endnotes, while others opine that the numbers corresponding to the ones allotted in the text of the work should only refer to the name of the author, title of the work cited and page number/s. Other details, such as the year and place of publication, edition and publisher’s name, should be mentioned in a separate list at the end (which is usually known as bibliography or, in more recent works, as references).

So what is the issue? The problem is that with the passage of time these citation styles have been further developed into different style sheets or style manuals. These are used both for sciences and humanities research, though some of them overlap in certain aspects. These different citations or style manuals give minute details about references, footnotes, bibliography, punctuation, the use of capital or small letters, formatting and even page-making and the title-page.

Some of these citation style guides are known as: APA (American Psychological Association), AMA (American Medical Association), ASA (American Sociological Society), MLA (Modern Language Association), ACS (American Chemical Society), Hart’s Rules (Oxford University Press), CMS or CMOS (The Chicago manual of Style, often referred to as Chicago Manual or just Chicago) and Turabian, to name but a few.

Since Pakistani literary research circles prefer Chicago Manual and/or Turabian style of citation and these are considered authentic citation and formatting manuals worldwide, too, it would not be out of place to briefly introduce them. The CMS is a writing and citation guide for writers, editors, publishers, proof readers, printers, publishers, indexers, copywriters and designers.

Revised every 10 years or so, the CMS’s 16th edition appeared in 2010. In the preface to its 14th edition (1993), an interesting piece of history is narrated, which I want to share with the readers: “A century ago, in the proof room of the then young University of Chicago Press, a solitary proof reader began jotting down on a single sheet of paper a few basic style rules. Within a few years this modest list of rules had grown into a multi-page collection titled ‘Style Book’, and within a few more years — by 1906 — a still larger collection was published, this time bearing the title ‘Manual of Style’.

From such early beginnings the collected guidelines of The University of Chicago Press have continued to grow in quantity and breadth of coverage, and although the purpose was, and remains, to establish rules, the renunciation, in the preface to the 1906 edition, of an authoritarian position in favour of common sense and flexibility has always been a fundamental and abiding principle.

Now a bit about the style and citation manual often briefly called Turabian. Named after its author Kate Larimore Turabian (1893-1987), a lady who worked for the University of Chicago, ‘A manual for writers of research papers, theses and dissertations’ was first published in 1937 and has sold over eight million copies. Now in its 8th edition (2013), it is in fact a kind of spin-off from CMS and is specifically intended for research students writing dissertations.

Coming to citations in Urdu, one has to agree with Dr Rasheed Amjad who says that we have so far not been able to develop an agreed-upon system of citations and referencing. In his editorial, he says that “these days there are two systems that are in vogue in Urdu, the first one favours writing the last name first, for example ‘Dr Vaheed Qureshi’ is mentioned as ‘Qureshi, Dr Vaheed’. This is in line with the international standards of citations but there are some scholars who do not approve of this practice. Similarly, there is a difference of opinion as to whether or not the name of the publisher be mentioned before the place, for example, ‘Sang-e-Meel, Lahore’ or ‘Lahore, Sang-e-Meel’.

Those who do not agree with the practice say that eastern and Islamic names sometimes are inseparable. How would one mention, they ask, for example, names such as Abdullah, Abdul Haq or Mahir-ul-Qadri? Ul-Qadri, Mahir? Or Qadri, Mahir-ul? And how would one write it in Urdu script (since ‘ul’ is not written separately? Another issue is the names of the female writers. If her name is not in three parts, mentioning it becomes a bit awkward. For example, ‘Dr Najeeba Arif’ is often cited as ‘Arif, Dr Najeeba’, while in fact ‘Arif’ is her husband’s name and not a family name or surname.

Dr Rasheed Amjad suggests that these issues should be taken seriously and some sort of body or department must be founded to decide the issues, so that some kind of uniformity is brought in and the standard of research too may be raised. One hopes the HEC would come forward and shoulder the responsibility. And one should not forget the guiding principle laid down by the Chicago manual: common sense and flexibility.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2014



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