The proper citation formatting in a submitted manuscript

Jan 24 2013 Published by under Uncategorized

I always try to make life as easy as possible for my reviewers.

As a reader, I much prefer in-text name citations to numbered ones.

The citations are part of the flavor of the paper and, especially on enormous double spaced documents, it's hard to flip back and forth to look at them.

I don't think that attitude will be surprising to readers around here.

So what should I do when I submit a manuscript to a journal that asks for numbered citations?

In the past, I have just submitted it with numbers. But why should the reviewers suffer just because the journal has a silly policy? Especially when that policy is designed for readers of finished manuscripts, not reviewers?

Maybe submitting the document as it would appear in published form made sense back in the day. But now, with the click of a button, I can change formatting style.

That's why I decided to submit manuscripts with the name style citations, even for the journal with numbered cites in published manuscripts.

I also include the figures, in small forms, in-line. I have started getting papers to review that look like this, and I much prefer it as a reviewer.


18 responses so far

  • I really like putting the figures in the actual manuscript instead of somewhere in the back for the reason that you mention. But I'm also always kind of afraid that not adhering to the journal's policy will piss off the editor and lead to immediate rejection.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    You rebel you!

  • ecologist says:

    I find it easy to add an outline at the beginning of the paper (a table of contents). For a while now, I've been doing this for a while now, including a notation at the top along the lines of "outline provided for the convenience of reviewers, and will be removed later". I don't know if it really helps the reviewers, but it would help me if I was reviewing the paper, so I figure it's worth a try.

    I figure anything that helps the reviewers is going to put them in at least a little bit better mood, which can't hurt.

    • neuropolarbear says:

      i dont really get it. what goes into the outline? don't all papers contain abstract/intro/results, etc?
      or do you mean something else??

  • scicurious says:

    Sometimes the editors will throw the manuscript back at you for not meeting guidelines. I got thrown back for 2 extra references.

    Imagine my shock when the reviewers demanded PRECISELY the two references I had to remove...

    • neuropolarbear says:

      yes, dammit, that's exactly what happened to us yesterday.
      they threw it back.
      if it gets accepted i may write a very polite note suggesting they change their policy.
      but definitely not until then.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Btw, numbered citations are a clear sign of an unscholarly journal which considers citation a mere afterthought instead of an integral part of the argument.

  • Kausik Datta says:

    I beg to differ. Are you, for example, referring to all ASM journals as ‘unscholarly’? The numbered system exists for a very simple reason, so as not to disrupt the flow of text. This is particularly important when multiple papers are cited in support of various assertions made in the preceding sentence or paragraph, such as “(4, 5, 9-12)”. Having to write them in the ‘author, year’ format would be a disaster. Besides, I don't see how the author name of the referred study in the text aids or enhances the overall clarity or understanding of the text.

    On the other hand, I can totally support the inclusion of a smaller figure at the relevant area of text for ease of understanding; it is a capital idea. It is what is done for grant applications, and those are peer-reviewed as well. So I don't understand why the journals (and editors) should prevent the authors from doing the same for submitted papers.

    • drugmonkey says:

      flipping back to the references is what "disrupts the flow of the text" the most. So basically you are admitting that you are swayed by lyrical beauty and the actual, gee I dunno....evidence, is but an afterthought. So yeah, unscholarly.

      • Kausik Datta says:

        Seriously, DM? Lyrical beauty? Curb your enthusiasm, man! :)

        Do show me how putting in references in 'Author, year' format - in preference to a numerical format - enhances the requirement for evidence? Generally, when I flip back to check one or more references, I can keep in mind the few lines that I read prior to that point. Therefore, checking the references doesn't hinder my search for, you know, evidence. Gasp! Have I been doin' it rong?

        Besides, you may want to give some weight to commentor AJK's comment below, about how 30 citations are sometimes placed at the same place in Physics journals.

        So, unscholarly? Em... No.

  • AJK says:

    This may be pretty highly field-dependent. I'm a physicist, and I can't immediately think of any (scholarly or otherwise) physics journals that don't use numbered citations. I personally would prefer name/year format, though. Preventing comments like (real example, I swear) "Past literature has studied this problem [1-30]" might be a side benefit.

    For submitting papers, unless there are big, big instructions telling me not to, I will always format exactly as the paper is meant to be read in published form, with figures in-line. [This is a lot easier with LaTeX templates, obviously.] So far, no rejections on formatting basis.

    Double-spaced preprints with figures at the back are abhorrent, a vestige of the bad old analog days.

    • neuropolarbear says:

      Interesting. I thought the double space was so that reviewers could print it out and mark it with a red pen as they read it. Which is what I do.

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