• Two Reference Gripes

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    I don’t like the way the news media cite academic work. A typical (made-up) example reads, “A study by researchers at the University of Poobah reveals that humans perform better on cognitive tests when not distracted with heavy artillery blasts.” Suppose I want to find the study. Who are the authors? What’s the title? Is it published in a journal? Which one? Sometimes one or another of these questions is answered elsewhere in the news report, but not always. Why can’t they just provide a full citation? What gives?

    Speaking of citations, I wish it were standard in academic journals and reports to indicate right up front how the piece should be cited. I know there are different citation conventions, and I don’t insist that in my perfect world all journals use the same style (though that would be nice). But at least if they provided all the relevant information necessary to inform any style in one spot right on the front page of each article, that would be a big help. Sure, all the data is there (usually), but one has to hunt around and cobble it together. It’s a lot of extra work. If the journal editors want their articles cited, they should make it easier.

    For example, writing, “A Smarty, B Simple, IM Good. (2010). Toward a theory of journalistic practice under curmudgeonly advice. The Annals of Half-Baked Notions 2(6):234-289. June.” at the start of the article would be awesome. With one cut-and-paste I’d have the full citation. I’d be happy.

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    • Agreed 100% about news articles…

      For the other suggestion, many math journals do do pretty close to that. For instance, I’m looking at an article in Inventiones Mathematicae that has ‘Invent. math. 66, 11-33 (1982)’ in the upper-right corner of the first page. That’s missing the author and title, but those are also right there, of course.

    • I’ve noticed that NPR has been mentioning the name of the journal where a study was published as well. When the revised National Health Expenditures were published a few months ago, they mentioned the article published in the (at the time) current issue of Health Affairs. It’s generally enough for me, given that we can now search pretty easily and that they face a time constraint on the air.