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I am writing a capstone paper using MLA. I am using a digital file for a source and the file's title seems to have a typo and improper capitalization. The title is "District Demographics all students (preK-13)" however, there is no grade 13 in this US school district, at least according to the district's website. Normally, one would capitalize all words in a title (or at least I would).

Is it improper to add a [sic] to the actual citation and not just a quote? My proposed citation would look something like:

Karjala, Ryan. “Districts Demographics all students (PreK-13)” [sic]. 2021. Google Sheets file.

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  • What does [sic] mean ? (I am new here). Jan 30, 2022 at 22:32
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    It is used for corrections of inadvertent misstatements, like writing "there" when you mean "their" or "your" when you mean "you're". Why do you (OP) think it applies here. Do you believe PreK-12 was intended and the 13 was inadvertent?
    – Buffy
    Jan 30, 2022 at 22:34
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    @Buffy, Yeah, I believe 13 was a typo and I don't want the grader to think that it's MY typo :) Jan 30, 2022 at 22:59
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    @Buffy Saying it is used "for the correction" sounds a bit ambigous. It is used to point out that a typo/error in a quote is from the original quote (stressing "yes, that's what it actually says there"), and not to mark that one has made a correction to the quote.
    – user151413
    Jan 30, 2022 at 23:51
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    "Normally, one would capitalize all words in a title": That really depends on the journal's style. When citing, you should follow the original publication, and not whether you think that all words should be capitalized (which I, for instance, often find awkward).
    – user151413
    Jan 30, 2022 at 23:52

3 Answers 3

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I would say no - it is implicitly assumed that the bibliography entry describes the publication in a well-defined way, however absurd or wrong the original title might be. Its sole purpose is for the reader to be able to find the referred material - no more, no less.

Like Roland said in the comments, if the same sentence or some other excerpt from the paper you believe to be wrong would occur mid-text, then you use [sic]. Actually, there is no need to confirm it is wrong - [sic] indicates your belief that that is the case.

EDIT: Also, the capitalization is a part of the citation style/journal style, as pointed out in the comments.

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    I think I agree, as long as this is just about the 13. The capitalization issue is separate as that is a question of style.
    – toby544
    Jan 31, 2022 at 17:27
  • @toby544 Thank you. Added an edit.
    – Lodinn
    Jan 31, 2022 at 17:29
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Capitalize a citation the way the citation style guide says to capitalize it. In academic journals, the copyeditor will change the capitalization to whatever is customary for that journal if the author has not done it.

Do not change "13" to "12." That just makes it harder to find the reference later. Search tools understand capitalization, but not grade numbering.

I do not feel a need for [sic] to be included.

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It is hard to imagine that an error in the title of a paper would escape notice. I'd be hesitant to suggest that it was. If you have a proper copy of the paper and it, indeed, said "13" then I wouldn't want to second guess it. Perhaps there is something about that district that you don't know.

But for an assignment it might be ok.

For an assignment it isn't a problem until it is a problem, at which case, you could actually verify to the prof. that you were accurate in the reference. In the old days of paper submissions, a sticky note (well, not the old-old days, I guess) pointing to the accuracy would be a solution also.

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  • It's a Google Sheet file so I don't think that there's a hardcopy to reference. It's also a relatively easy fix. Since this is a district file, it doesn't have the rigor required of an actual peer-reviewed source, which is probably why I couldn't find an answer to this question before I asked it here. Jan 30, 2022 at 23:10
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    Can you ask the author?
    – Buffy
    Jan 30, 2022 at 23:19
  • Not a bad idea. I'll shoot them an email tomorrow along with my supervisor who has experience grading these portfolios. Jan 30, 2022 at 23:21
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    It is hard to imagine that an error in the title of a paper would escape notice. -- Some examples from a quick search of some of my personal-use bibliographies: Descriptiove character of sets ... and On some applications of the index conparison ... and Symmetric and approximate symmeric ... and ... et les ensemles H. Jan 31, 2022 at 15:03

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