How to Use Zotero to Properly Cite Grammars in SBL Style

You might think that citing a grammar according to the SBL Handbook of Style would be pretty straightforward.1 And you’d be right, but there are several special cases to account for.

1. Cite section numbers wherever possible.

Instead of citing a grammar by page number, you should cite by section number wherever possible to give the most precise reference. You’ll designate a single section with “§” and a section range with “§§”.

2. Cite grammars by abbreviation where applicable.

For many common Hebrew and Greek grammars, the SBL Handbook specifies an abbreviation by which to cite a given grammar (§8.4). You may find others also when you check IATG3.

For instance, Gesenius-Kautzch-Cowley is cited simply by the abbreviation “GKC”. Blass-Debrunner-Funk is cited simply as “BDF”.2

The full bibliographic information for these sources then goes in an abbreviations list and should not appear in the bibliography.

3. Adjust your reference manager’s output accordingly.

If you use reference manager software, you’ll want to consider how best to get that software to produce the abbreviated references you need for cases like this. If you use Zotero, you have two main options.

a. Enter footnotes manually, or use the prefix and suffix fields.

If you need to cite only one or more grammars only by an abbreviation(s), you can simply add a footnote and type the appropriate text without going through Zotero’s “add citation” process.

If you are citing a grammar(s) and another source(s) in a Zotero footnote, you can simply add the appropriate grammar citation text to the prefix or suffix fields of your existing citation, depending on whether you want the grammar citation to come before or after the other source(s) you are citing.

So, for instance, when adding or editing a citation, you could type “BDF §458;” into the prefix field to add a citation to Blass-Debrunner-Funk §458. Zotero would then build this text into the footnote so that the footnote will look as it should.

The upside of this method is that it is quite straightforward. The downside is that any sources you cite in this way won’t appear in any bibliography Zotero generates for your document.

SBL Press doesn’t want sources cited by abbreviation in a bibliography anyhow, but in some cases, you might find that you want this (e.g., requirements from a professor, journal, or volume editor).

In that event, your best option will be to edit the bibliography that Zotero prepares to add any sources you’ve included in your footnotes simply by adding their abbreviations as text. Since you entered those citations simply as text, Zotero won’t “know” to add these sources to your bibliography unless you make those changes directly.

b. Install the current SBL style in your reference manager.

Other ways of getting this output automatically from Zotero may be on the horizon. But things are really quite easy if you have the current version of the SBL style installed.

Not long ago, you would have needed to install a custom variant of the main SBL style or edit the style yourself. That’s no longer necessary, however. The changes necessary to cite grammars and other sources by abbreviation are now part of the main SBL style.

You can get the style from the Zotero repository directly. Or if you drop your name and email in the form below, I’ll drop you an email about that style. I’ll also include the style for the Catholic Biblical Association, which uses many of the same abbreviations as SBL style.

Once you have the style installed, for any source you need to cite by an abbrevation, just add Annote: [abbreviation] in that Zotero resource’s “Extra” field. So, for instance, for Blass-Debrunner-Funk, you would add Annote: BDF.

The upside of this method is that you can cite grammars by abbreviation while using the Zotero add citation dialog.

The downside is that you might need to edit your bibliography, if you have one, to remove these sources and move them to an abbreviation list (per SBL style’s requirement).

But you will probably know pretty well which few sources are cited by abbreviations. So, you should be able to edit your bibliography as needed pretty quickly to relocate these sources.

Conclusion

In the end, citing grammars according to the SBL Handbook of Style is quite straightforward.

If you want to cite them while using a reference manager, the process may be a bit more detailed to set up since the manager may not have a mechanism for handling largely custom citation patterns like the abbreviations SBL Press specifies for common grammars.

But with some careful thought about how you want to approach citing these kinds of resources, you can certainly streamline them into your existing citation process.


  1. Header image provided by SBL Press

  2. Also important is SBL Press’s discussion of citing Herbert Smyth’s Greek Grammar

Daily Gleanings: Post Updates (3 June 2019)

I’ve been grateful to be able to materially update two prior posts with additional content:

  • Publication Year Ranges in Zotero: Previously, this post described how to get Zotero to produce the proper output when citing a series or multivolume work as a whole that was published over a range of years. The prior post version, however, was only able to address this for ranges of years that already had an end date. But with thanks to Brenton Wiernik on the Zotero forums, I’ve been able to update the post to describe how to get the output required if the year range doesn’t yet have an end. This is useful when citing series that are still being published (e.g., the Göttingen Septuagint).
  • Get Strack and Billerbeck via Internet Archive: Previously, this post identified how to access on Internet Archive volumes 1–3 of Hermann Strack and Paul Billerbeck’s Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch. But these volumes represent only half of Strack and Billerbeck’s commentary. Happily, Ronald van der Bergh mentioned that he had found another page on Internet Archive that provides a combined file of volumes 1–4. I’ve now included a link in the post to this additional file. If anyone comes across volume 5 or 6, do please leave a comment with where you found them, and I’ll be happy to update the post further.

Citing Electronic Journals with Individually Paginated Articles

There are several good online journals that publish articles that are paginated separately from each other, rather than running the pagination continuously through a given issue (or volume). Just a couple are HTS Teologiese Studies and Scriptura (at least in recent volumes).

Alt

I’ve tended to treat these as though they all appeared at the beginning of a given issue (all starting with page “1”). But, SBL Press has clarified that this isn’t their most preferred way to treat this situation.

For articles in online journals that aren’t paginated in series, the preferred note form for the first reference to this type of article is:

[Author name], “[Title],” [Journal] [Journal volume] ([Journal volume year]): art. [Article number in the journal volume], [“p.” or “pp.” according to whether one or multiple pages is cited] [Page number], [Full DOI URL as a live link].

Thus, one example would be:

Ntozakhe Simon Cezula, “Waiting for the Lord: The Fulfilment of the Promise of Land in the Old Testament as a Source of Hope,” Scr.(S) 116 (2017): art. 3, pp. 1–15, http://dx.doi.org/10.7833/116-1-1304.

Subsequent references are constructed in the same way as they would be for any continuously paginated journal article.

To get the initial citation above from this bibliographic record, I had to adjust the default Zotero output for the SBL style by: (a) making “.3” into “art. 3,”—although this article isn’t in an “issue,” this seemed the best way to store it in the database—(b) adding “pp.” before the page references, and (c) adding “, http://dx.doi.org/10.7833/116-1-1304” after the page reference.

The corresponding bibliography format would be:

Cezula, Ntozakhe Simon. “Waiting for the Lord: The Fulfilment of the Promise of Land in the Old Testament as a Source of Hope.” Scr.(S) 116 (2017): art. 3, pp. 1–15. http://dx.doi.org/10.7833/116-1-1304.

For additional information, see both Electronic Journals with Individually Paginated Articles and HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies on the SBL Handbook of Style blog.

I wonder if there may need to be a new item or data type created in Zotero to support constructing this type of citation without this additional massaging.

Or, do you other Zotero users have other insights about ways of getting closer to output above with the software and the SBL style as they stand?

Update: Brenton Wiernik suggested the following excellent workaround via Twitter.

https://twitter.com/bmwiernik/status/1041806559842582529

In the Twitter discussion above, the URL I mention should be the DOI URL. But, Twitter has presented a shortened version automatically.

Discussion of this citation situation is also now pending in the Zotero forums.