Thursday, May 25, 2017

[Yasmin_discussions] Advice on Referencing and Citation

Dear Colleagues,

Here is a short guide to referencing and citation that offers what I hope is useful advice. If you prefer a copy in .pdf format, you will find it at URL:

Below, you will find the ten principles of reference and citation that I find most useful as a journal editor and as a writer myself. Next, you'll find a short essay in which I discuss the value of these ten principles.


Ken Friedman

Ten Principles of Reference and Citation

1. Use citations constructively to substantiate the argument of an article.

2. Use citations creatively to advance the argument.

3. Argue the case of the article in the narrative. External sources support the argument. External support cannot replace the author's argument. Do not confuse the two.

4. Use precise, fine-grained references. These permit the reader to locate cited materials at their exact place in the source document. Fine-grained references allow the reader to examine, question, challenge, and learn from cited sources.

5. Treat direct quotations, indirect quotations, and paraphrases the same way. Give explicit references to the exact page or section in the cited sources for all quotations and paraphrases. This serves readers while building and supporting the knowledge of the field.

6. Review cited passages in the original sources to ensure exact quotes and accurate paraphrasing. Reviewing sources helps authors to use source text well. It allows the author to reflect on the quoted material for added depth and development.

7. Never use second-hand references from other articles or books. Always check cited sources first hand.

8. Never use loose or vague references. Be precise.

9. Every source document cited the text must appear in the reference list. Every item in the reference list must appear in the text.

10. Each source in the text requires an appropriate citation in the text and a full entry in the reference list. All sources must be cited using a standard style, including digital sources. Every document has an author – one person or several, a collective author, or an institutional author. Every document has a title. Documents such as journal articles or book chapters require journal or book titles and pages within the journal or book. Every document has a publisher, and the citation requires publisher location and publisher name.

Within the document, a direct quote or an indirect quote (a paraphrase) needs a precise page location unless the document has no page numbers.

Digital sources require a complete reference. A URL or a doi is not sufficient. The World Wide Web is a global library. Many web sites are like bookshelves or file drawers – the URL or doi tells readers where on the shelf to find a document. The citation provides the details.

Every entry in the reference list must be complete. All citations and all references must use the same style. All citations and references must be complete and consistent to be correct.


Ten Principles of Reference and Citation

by Ken Friedman

Writing research in peer-reviewed articles, reports, and books requires careful, fine-grained references. Current best practice in many fields calls for references that provide the precise location of cited material within the source document.

Reviewer time is valuable. Until reviewers can read the article and the underlying literature, there is no point in asking for reviews or advice. Without careful references, each reviewer must read through source documents to locate the basis of cited claims. This often requires checking several dozen pages of an article or several hundred pages of a book to find an idea that appears at a specific point in the source document. An editor cannot ask reviewers to do that work. This work is the author's responsibility.

Many journals and most academic publishers have excellent reviewers and advisors. When editors ask members of their team to review a submission, their commitment to reviewers is that the evidence within each manuscript is complete and correct prior to review. Serious editors will not proceed to review until the references and citations are careful and explicit.

The review process allows journals or publishers to evaluate an article or book. It also allows reviewers to provide advice to potential authors through the peer review process. Reviewers cannot properly fulfill their responsibilities until authors do the necessary work of building an argument and providing carefully referenced evidence to substantiate the argument of the article. It is the author's job to provide the evidence. That's what references are for. To ask reviewers to do this work asks reviewers to complete the author's job.

Many leading journals and publishers now require careful, explicit references. This requirement applies to direct quotations and indirect quotations (paraphrases) alike. While we use the Chicago Manual of Style, this is also the common standard for journals using American Psychological Association style.

Sections 6.03 and 6.04 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010:170-171) note that this is a change from the earlier style permitting paraphrases that do not cite a specific page number. Randolph Smith (2000) discusses these issues in an article that applies to nearly all fields. There are significant reasons for this change, and valuable reasons for the new standard.

Loose references were accepted in some disciplines when there were fewer universities than we have today. It was an era with fewer academic researchers, fewer journals, and fewer book publishers. Authors in any field wrote for a smaller audience of scholars or scientists than today. The members of many fields knew each other. Even when authors did not know everyone first-hand, they knew the literature and shared a canon of key works.

In an earlier era, people in many disciplines could assume that everyone in their field read the same journals and the same books. Even when these assumptions did not hold true, scholars often made these assumptions when writing to the members of their discipline or field. In this context, casual reminders replaced careful citations and fine-grained references.

The situation changed when university education expanded in the closing decades of the 20th century. Today, there are between 14,000 and 23,000 universities in the world. The exact number depends on the definition used and method of collecting data. Research fields and research education have also exploded. In many nations, the change has been dramatic. For example, there are now more Ph.D. students in Australia than the total number of all Australian university students fifty years ago. An increase in the number of journals, books, reports, and other literature reflects the growth of fields and subfields. The increase is so large that no one in any field can keep up with the literature as they might once have done. This is not even possible for subject specialty librarians and bibliographers.

Today, major disciplines such as psychology have changed the common referencing style to require fine-grained references on direct and indirect quotes alike, as well as other forms of evidence. Authors must show exact page numbers, allowing readers to find the material providing the warrant for the author's claim.

In an increasingly interdisciplinary world, journals and books attract authors and readers from many fields. Articles that draw on an extensive literature make careful referencing a necessity.

Precise referencing is also valuable to authors. Careful, fine-grained referencing builds the argumentative stream. It creates specific links to relevant work by other researchers. Most important, it leads to a conceptually rigorous article.

The forced default position of journal editors and book publishers who accept careless references is that reviewers assume that the authors have made valid evidentiary claims without actually checking to see that this is the case. Rather than review plausible claims, they read swiftly, jumping to the conclusion. If the conclusion seems generally agreeable, they accept an article. If they do not agree with the conclusion, they call for revisions or they reject.

This is an irresponsible review process. A responsible review process requires reviewers to ensure that the evidence is responsible. If the evidence is sound and the conclusion follows logically from the evidence, reviewers should accept an article or give a book due consideration. Challenges or suggestions for improvement must be based on the nature and quality of the evidence and the internal logic of the draft.

It is on this basis that a serious journal is required to accept even revolutionary propositions – this, for example, is why Annalen der Physik published Albert Einstein's five revolutionary articles of 1905 (see: Einstein 1998).

While Einstein did not use citations for physical and chemical facts that were widely known and accepted by all trained scientists, he built careful arguments based on well known facts that he carefully restated.

In one well-known example, Einstein's (1905: 549-560; 1998: 85-98) article on Brownian motion had only four citations – three to Einstein's earlier articles in Annalen der Physik and one to Gustav Kirchhoff's (1897) Lectures on Mechanics. At that time, many physicists and chemists did not accept atomic theory as a physical reality. While some of them accepted atomic theory for heuristic purposes and for calculation, they looked on atoms as an idea that no one had been able to demonstrate. In his article on Brownian motion, Einstein used well known physical and chemical facts to prove the physical reality of atoms. He pointed to established facts that had accumulated from the 1820s, when botanist Robert Brown first observed the phenomenon. Einstein developed a logical argument from well-known facts on which all physicists and chemists agreed to demonstrate the physical reality of atomic theory. This was possible in physics, and most scientists came to agree on the reality of atoms soon after the article appeared.

Such fields as design, economics, or innovation studies have few established facts that we acknowledge in this way. Research assertions therefore require evidence. Authors are free to present the evidence of original research in the form of data and methodological argument. They may also present evidence drawn from other sources. When they draw on evidence from other sources, they must explicitly show readers and reviewers where to find that evidence.

Reviewers and readers should not have to ask "How do you know that these facts are the case?" or "Why do you believe that the author of this cited document supports the assertion you offer at this point?" Careful, explicit references in the submitted article should answer these questions.

The implicit statement of a careless reference is essentially the claim that "readers will find the support for my argument somewhere in the document I cite." This generally means that the reviewer must read the full source document, whether it is a journal article of 5,000 words or a book of several hundred pages. This burden is inappropriate in a submission that may contain several dozen references. The total number of pages for cited sources in many journal articles often runs from 3,000 to 6,000 pages. It is unreasonable to ask reviewers or readers to do that much reading – and it is inappropriate to ask reviewers or readers to take any referenced claim on faith without the opportunity to check the source document.

In reading some articles, I am both amused and irked when I see references that supposedly offer a substantive argument based on responsible evidence when they do no such thing. In these articles, many references are loose and sloppy. They pretend to offer evidence by citing real books and articles in a way that makes it impossible for readers to locate the supposed evidence within the cited documents.

These citations refer to serious books or articles, but the citing authors do not point to anything that the cited sources actually state. Neither do the citing authors show where in the cited documents a reader can find assertions that support the citing author's claims. I recently read one article with nearly 15,000 pages of underlying source material, none of it properly referenced. I would have needed several days of work to read through that material to uncover the truth or falsity of the author's claims. A cartoon version of what I read would look something like this:

"Giraffe (2000) argues that human beings emerged from caves to begin the agricultural revolution (Zebra 1989). This left us living in cities (Antelope 2014) where we necessarily aggregate in marketplaces (Baboon 2008). According to Fox (2003) we can regenerate the social atmosphere by encouraging local festivals to reduce capital intensity and market churn (Hedgehog 2010)."

It may or may not be the case that any of these worthy authors made the stated claims. Since I'd have to read thousands of pages to find out, there is no possible way to test the claims of the author I read. I must either accept the author on faith or discard the whole thing. Worse yet, the author did not make a clear argument in his text. On many points, the author pointed to an external source as though the cited source could make the argument on behalf of the author. It's like saying that an author can stack up a set of books and articles on one side of a scale to prove the conclusion on the other.

An author cannot expect readers to read every page of every report, article, or book that an author may read prior to writing his or her own report, article, or book. The author must provide a citation with evidence for claims. A careful, explicit citation will easily demonstrate the validity of citing author's claims to the interested reader. It is the reader's right to demand evidence. It is the author's responsibility to provide it.

In my own journal, She Ji, we ask that authors use this short guide to understanding the reasoning and principles behind notes and references.

Authors interested in the larger purpose and history of referencing should read Anthony Grafton's (1997) history of footnotes. Grafton addresses the scholarly importance of careful referencing. In a widely published essay, Gertrude Himmelfarb (1994) writes about the meaning and consequences of references.


American Psychological Association. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Sixth Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Einstein, Albert. 1905. "On the Motion of Small Particles Suspended in Liquids at Rest Required by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat." Annalen der Physik, 17, pp. 549-560.

Einstein, Albert. 1998. Einstein's Miraculous Year. Five Papers that Changed the Face of Physics. Edited and introduced by John Stachel. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Grafton, Anthony. 1997. The Footnote. A Curious History. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd.

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. 1994. "Where Have All the Footnotes Gone?" On Looking Into the Abyss. Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, pp. 122-130.

Kirchhoff, Gustav. 1897. Vorlesungen über Mechanik. 4th edition. W. Wien, ed. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner.

Smith, Randolph A. 2000. "Documenting Your Scholarship: Citations and References." Guide to Publishing in Psychology Journals. Robert J. Sternberg, Editor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 146-157.


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