References Are Important – Part 2

In a prior post, we made a strong case for why paying attention to references is important and provided 3 real-world examples of reference errors we see all the time.

In this post, we’re going to acknowledge a pain point and provide a solution that will work for many journals.

We know reference formatting is a hassle. Every journal seems to have its own format, there’s no standardization, and having to reformat a reference list for each individual submission is torture.

Yep, we get it, and so do many other journal editors, which is why some journals do not specify a reference format, stating instead in the author instructions that any format will be accepted AS LONG AS IT’S CONSISTENT.

There’s the rub.

Many of the papers we receive have references in a variety of formats in the same list. Here are actual examples—references 11 and 12—from a paper we received last week:

11. Horn, S., Holzer, H., & Horina, J. H. (1996). Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis in a patient with nephrogenic ascites during an episode of acute renal transplant rejection. Am J of Kidney Dis. 1996 Mar; 27(3), 441–443.

12. Horina, J. H., Hammer, H. F., Reisinger, E. C., Enzinger, G. F., Holzer, H., & Krejs, G. J. (1993). Spontaneous Bacterial Peritonitis in a Hemodialysis Patient with Systemic Lupus erythematosus. Nephron. 1993; 65(4), 633–635.

In reference 11, the publication year is provided in parentheses after the author string. In reference 12, the publication year is provided after the journal name and not in parentheses.

In reference 11, only the first word of the article title is capitalized. In reference 12, most, but not all, of the important words in the article title are capitalized.

Assuming that the reference information is complete and accurate (which it wasn’t in the examples in our April 22, 2021 post—and that’s a whole other problem), editorial staffs can make the minor adjustments necessary to bring references in line with the journal’s style IF all the references are formatted in the same way.

But because the references in this example are inconsistent, they require a great deal more work to fix.

And that’s not OK. The editors at scholarly journals are not responsible for fixing your reference lists.

For medical journals, a good standard to follow is the National Library of Medicine. At PubMed, on the left side of every article page is a “Cite button. Click that button and a popup box provides a beautifully formatted reference that you can copy.

Do this every time, and your references will be consistent and accurate.

References are important.