Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fun with footnotes

Footnotes and endnotes are useful things for people engaged in research--I read the endnotes of my books obsessively and often try to track down any reference material that I think might be interesting. But they can also be horribly abused in any number of ways.

You can cite something which does not appear to exist. You can cite something that nowhere says anything like you claim it does. You can cite something that has been thoroughly debunked and repudiated as shoddy scholarship. And so on. Still, the presence of footnotes gives your paper a form of legitimacy in the eyes of those too lazy to actually read the footnotes or follow up on them.

Today I was shown, via Ex-Gay Watch, perhaps the most flagrant abuse of footnotes ever.

Here's the beginning of an FAQ on the website of Exodus International:

Note the use of footnotes. Surely this is some scholarly work!
Well... here's the footnotes themselves:

That's right. They just leave the footnotes blank, I suppose hoping that no-one with a critical eye would scroll down to the bottom of the page.

[Edit] The FAQ in question has been removed.

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