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Resources for Research Assistants

The Basics

I.  Who needs to know about this?

  1. Research assistants helping a professor check endnotes for a book

  2. Students on a journal who are checking footnotes for an article or student note (note: journals have very specific procedures in place, so be sure to consult with the editor about specifics)

  3. Law students checking their own internal citations for a student paper  

  4. Lawyers or legal interns checking internal citations for a brief

  5. Note: the overarching concept is the same regardless of the specific context--substance and style must both be checked. This guide will be written primarily with an eye toward RAs helping professors.


II.  What is this? There are two important components here, and it is crucial to understand the task being assigned by an author or journal editor. It might be both!

  1. Cite checking for substance (subcite): this is the most important of the two, as it is a matter of scholarly ethics and integrity to properly reference the source of all ideas, language and quotations being relied upon in one’s work product (e.g., book, article, or paper).

    a.   The point: to confirm that every statement in the book chapter/article/paper is supported by citation to an appropriate source; to confirm that the source cited actually says what the author says it says.

    b.   Example: if the author states that James Madison wrote something in one of his letters, there should be a citation to the appropriate letter; the author's statement about the content of the letter should be confirmed. 

  2. Cite-checking for style: this refers to the actual style of the citation itself. Depending on the citation style guide for your project (The Bluebook, Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association, etc.), citations must be formatted in a particular way. General elements will typically include components such as author, title, and page numbers, though the specifics will vary depending on the guide being followed.  

    a.   The point: to confirm that the formatting of text, references, and citations comply with the requirements of the applicable style guide.  

    b.   Example: the actual citation to the appropriate James Madison letter should be formatted pursuant to the applicable style guide.