The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 05-17-2008, 08:31 AM
Harriet the Spry Harriet the Spry is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Citations - Meaning of c.f. (academic writing style)

When an author cites another study, but prefaces the citation with c.f., what does that mean?

I have heard two opinions. The first is that it is for citing a conflicting opinion "Most scholars believe the world is flat (c.f. Columbus, 1492)..."

The second is that it is for citing only one of many studies providing the same information "There are many accounts of travel in the 1400s (c.f. Columbus, 1492) ..."

Are either of these correct? The sources I have checked explain it means "confer" or "compare," but that doesn't really make the usage clear to me.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 05-17-2008, 08:50 AM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
Voodoo Adult (Slight Return)
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Charlotte, NC, USA
Posts: 24,043
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harriet the Spry
Are either of these correct? The sources I have checked explain it means "confer" or "compare," but that doesn't really make the usage clear to me.
In either case, the author (or editor or whoever) is telling you to compare the current statement, thought, concept, whatever, with one found in the cited source. The cited source may confirm, contradict, or merely add a different point of view to that being discussed.

FWIW, my personal copy of 2001: A Space Odyssey is riddled with cf notations in the margins from when I once read it and 2010 back to back over the course of about 2 days and couldn't help but notice places Clarke had echoed, contradicted, and/or simply repeated himself. Of course, that's back when I thought I might teach those books in class one day and I didn't want to forget.

Last edited by KneadToKnow; 05-17-2008 at 08:52 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 05-17-2008, 08:52 AM
MsRobyn MsRobyn is offline
Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between the Moon and NYC
Posts: 12,368
It does come from "confer" and it does mean "compare."

Essentially, cf. is intended to point the reader in the direction of information that is intended to augment the writer's argument or point. It's just a fancy way of saying "see also".

Robin
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 05-17-2008, 02:48 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by MsRobyn
It does come from "confer" and it does mean "compare."

Essentially, cf. is intended to point the reader in the direction of information that is intended to augment the writer's argument or point. It's just a fancy way of saying "see also".

Robin
Well, to be completely correct, it comes from Lt. confer (imperative of conferre), meaning: "compare."
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 05-17-2008, 04:21 PM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
of the Gladiators
Moderator
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Detroit
Posts: 9,491
According to The Blue Book, which deals with legal citations and doesn't necessarily apply to academic writing outside of law reviews:

Quote:
Cited authority supports a proposition different from the main proposition but sufficiently analogous to lend support. Litereally, "cf." means "compare." The citation's relevance will usually be clear to the reader only if it is explained. Parenthetical explanations, however brief, are therefore strongly recommended.
In fact, if I were preparing a legal citation for this quote, I'd probably introduce it with Cf.

Last edited by Gfactor; 05-17-2008 at 04:22 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 05-17-2008, 07:06 PM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: A better place to be
Posts: 26,718
As everyone has noted, it stands for Latin confer, meaning "compare," and is used to refer the reader to a source with a supportive but different perspective than what is annotated with the Cf. (For a disjunctive perspective, you sometimes see "But Cf. othersource.")

One point to note is that like etc. but unlike i.e., e.g., and op. cit., it's an abbreviation of a single word, and so does not take the interior period shown in the OP. Cf. not c.f.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 05-17-2008, 10:34 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp
One point to note is that like etc. but unlike i.e., e.g., and op. cit., it's an abbreviation of a single word, and so does not take the interior period shown in the OP. Cf. not c.f.
Nitpick to the otherwise correct, and well-noted minor point: etc. is an abbreviation of et cetera, two words.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 05-18-2008, 01:16 PM
Harriet the Spry Harriet the Spry is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
I just knew this thread would attract the most detail-oriented of Dopers. Thanks, all!
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 05-18-2008, 01:55 PM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Troynovant
Posts: 5,130
cf. Wikipedia.


(That was irresistible!)
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 05-18-2008, 03:41 PM
MilTan MilTan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Austin, but NC at heart
Posts: 1,437
Quote:
Originally Posted by aldiboronti
cf. Wikipedia.


(That was irresistible!)
But that's not really the proper usage of cf.. That's just a normal cite for the definition.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:47 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.