Thursday, July 28, 2011

How Would You Cite Quotations from TV Shows and Movies?

Anyone who has been following me anywhere online knows that I have been researching rape jokes for a few years.  I'm finally drafting the article, and I'm stumbling on something.  At the start of my article, I list ten sample rape jokes I have collected from television and film over the last twenty years.  What do you see as the most legitimate way of citing quotations from TV shows and movies?  I'm trying to decide between two ways.

First is citing the actual episode of the TV show or the movie.  The journal to which I plan to submit this article wants Chicago-style endnotes, and citing the individual episodes is tricky.  The citation starts with the group, performer, or composer.  Is that the person who wrote the episode/film?  Is it the director?  Is it the person who spoke the quotation in question?  The one advantage of citing quotations this way is that I am citing the original source, but it's not often a source that people can find easily (such as obscure movies and cancelled TV shows not on DVD).  That's another thing, if it's on DVD, do I cite it that way even if I made a note of it fifteen years ago during a broadcast?

Second is citing IMDB quotation pages.  I have been keeping notes for years, but I confirmed my notes by referring to IMDB, and I could cite the quotations from there.  But that is not necessarily the original source.  On one hand, this does show people the actual quotation they can read for themselves.  But it also feels a bit like citing Wikipedia.  IMDB is credible to me, but would academic readers read it this way?

I should note that I am planning to send it to a rhetoric journal and not a media studies journal, at least not for the first go around.  So, rhetoricians, would citing the IMDB page bug you?  What about you media scholars?  Preferences?

(And if any students are reading this, you can see that professors struggle with citation just like you do.)


  1. Great questions all, sir! As far as the IMDB, I think it is a fairly recognizeable source at this point -- isn't it? Of course, I do a fair amount of cultural studies/pop culture stuff, and am married to a film studies prof, so it could just be my pov. But I think unless it is an ultra stuffy journal, the IMDB should be okay . . . famous last words.

    As far as citing TV, I have no place to direct you, but I kind of go by industry standard (Emmy guidelines) site the writers as authors (if there are such a thing) if not site the producers of the show as the creative heads (author slot). For film, I site the director as creative head.

    That has always passed thus far -- but I am young in my career, so perhaps folks have been generous or not so rigorous with my citations. I will keep an eye on this thread, I am directing the diss of a student writing about teen TV during the era of abstinence only education. What you collect will be good for him to know! : )

  2. Jen, Thanks! One person has suggested that I avoid IMDB because it is mostly user-generated, which I hadn't thought of. I have pretty much decided to cite everything in the 15th edition of the CMS. The editors, if they choose to publish, can tell me what they want from the 16th edition, which makes some pretty radical and bizarre changes.

  3. Just because a TV show is not on DVD does not mean that it is not available somewhere. Both Netflix and Hulu have a few titles that are apparently not available on DVD. Some TV channels also have online libraries.

    I don't know how to put that information into Chicago-style endnotes, though.

  4. Oh, I have no problem finding any of the TV shows or movies. Many of them are also in full episodes on IMDB. It's the citation that's difficult. Though CMS 15 makes it easier than CMS 16, so I'm just going with CMS 15.