The Chronicle of Higher Education
Academe Today
Date: May 30, 1990
Section: Opinion
Page: B4


Standards for Citations Are ‘Sorely Needed’

To the Editor:

Janell Rudolph and Deborah Brackstone should be congratulated for reminding scholars of the need for accurate citations ("Too Many Scholars Ignore the Basic Rules of Documentation," Point of View, April 11). However, their statements about the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) need clarification.

The SSCI consists of four separate indexes. The Source Index section is the primary tool for citation verification. It tells you what an author has published. The Citation Index section tells you where the author is cited. It is true that in the latter, many author errors become apparent.

The full bibliographic citation, including the title and names of all co-authors, is found in the cumulative Source Index, now covering 1956 to the present. The accuracy of this section is not in question.

The full extent of author errors is not apparent in the Citation Indexes. We process over 10 million cited references per year. Space does not permit me to describe the procedures used to correct thousands of author errors within our present capabilities. And with further application of expert systems, we continue to decrease the number of visible errors. Many errors defy even human correction, and we cannot cost-justify total verification for every line in the Citation Index.

Rudolph and Brackstone are correct in pointing out that an annual SSCIprovides a retrospective overview of an author’s cited works. Nevertheless, it is not possible to find the cited article’s title without using the Source Index. So it would seem that librarians and editors should demand article titles in all citations or loan requests. While this may seem normal for most scholarly law-review publications, hundreds of others routinely omit titles from journal citations. Among these are Nature, Science, and most chemistry and physics journals. International cross-disciplinary standards of citation are sorely needed.

Eugene Garfield
Institute for Scientific Information
Philadelphia, PA 19104