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Old 05-17-2008, 09:31 AM
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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.
Old 05-17-2008, 09:50 AM
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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 09:52 AM.
Old 05-17-2008, 09:52 AM
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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
Old 05-17-2008, 03:48 PM
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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."
Old 05-17-2008, 05:21 PM
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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 05:22 PM.
Old 05-17-2008, 08:06 PM
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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.
Old 05-17-2008, 11:34 PM
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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.
Old 05-18-2008, 02:16 PM
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I just knew this thread would attract the most detail-oriented of Dopers. Thanks, all!
Old 05-18-2008, 02:55 PM
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cf. Wikipedia.


(That was irresistible!)
Old 05-18-2008, 04:41 PM
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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.
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