Monday, March 2, 2009

nitpicky bullshit

I didn't make it all the way through my ISI alerts on Friday, so I'm trying to finish them up now and I actually found one that was worth keeping and had some good references. In general I only read chemistry journals, except when a good article is presented to me from a non-chem source like this. Most chemical journals follow similar formats of footnote/end note so I'm not too familiar with other styles, but I do realize they exist. On days like today, however, when I get exposed to other formats, I wonder why.

Here is, I can only assume, a successful and popular format I stumbled onto today from an Elsevier journal Toxicology. Early on it the paper I found some refs that looked like they might be worth fetching and saving:

Handily linked, but the link only takes you to the endnote. Wow, way to use technology to the utmost. Anyway, I went to the end of the article a little surprised there was no number, but knew that some people like to have no reference numbers. I can't guess as to why that would be a good thing, but I don't publish in those journals, so it's really not my problem or concern. I get to the end of the article, and the 4 references I want are in 4 different places on 2 pages:

Now THAT'S convenience! It appears that they are in alphabetical order, which makes sense, but they're still all over the place. I had to flip back and forth from the front to the back every time I looked up the new paper due to my weak memory and inability to remember the names for any length of time. Luckily only one guy was referenced more than once, and the papers were in two different years. I had wondered why the body references had no reference number, but did have a year. I still am not sure what would happen if you had to reference some sort of super stud who published in your field many, many times per year every year. I think the reader would be forced to just get every reference listed and see which was important. Obviously much better than having them individually numbered.

The actual end notes themselves are rather poorly constructed as well:

I went to look up J. Pharmacol. and after not finding it (actually saving me quite a bit of time) re-examined the ref to find that it was actually Br. J. Pharmacol. The incredibly clean lines of the formatting free text had slid right over my brain like a chamois leaving nary a residue. Once I had the journal correct, I glanced back to find the year and had to re-read the whole thing again to realize the year is buried with the authors, before the title. How nice. To make the footnotes somewhat discernible from each other so you can find them in the document's jumbled entrails, they moved the year away from it's surrounding info.

All of this to get the lovely benefits of "Singhal et al., 1999; Boronat et al., 2001; Hatsukari et al., 2003; Kapasi et al., 2004" vs "5".

1 comment:

Dr. Miller said...

I have wondered the same thing. What if the same author published two papers in the same year. As this reference style is not typical for science journals, my only conclusion is that humanities profs and grad students are slackers. But we already knew that.