Letters to the Editor


Citation Format

Eugene Garfield & Henry Small

The Board of Editors

Dear Colleagues:

In a recent telephone conversation with Don Kraft, we learned that the decision to change the referencing style in JASIS had occurred about five years ago. Apparently, the majority of Board members preferred the style of the American Psychological Association. We had not been aware of this decision which we consider to be a step backwards. It would take some time to trace the numerous discussions that took place over the years regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the APA referencing styles, but the information science community long ago adopted the numbered bibliography as the preferred style, in part because it is so prevalent amongst natural science journals.

Preference in reference styles is partly cultural. Social scientists, including psychologists, often prefer the APA style. Natural and physical scientists prefer the numbered bibliography. However, the numbered reference list is important to citation analysis and retrieval, since it facilitates location of the sentence or paragraph in which the citing statement occurs. Almost daily we trace the contextual environment of citations using their numbered locations in the text. The references themselves will have been uncovered by using the Social Sciences Citation Index, etc.

Having to go from an alphabetic bibliography to the paragraph in which the article was quoted is an unbearable, time consuming, task. Alphabetic bibliography also complicates the process of adding references because of varying rules for citing multi-authored papers.

That members of the JASIS editorial board would have taken this decision without widely consulting the membership of ASIS seems to us inexplicable. Had this been formally discussed at an ASIS meeting, as it should have been, we believe the recommendation would have been vetoed. This matter should be put before the membership at the next meeting, or a mail ballot should be used to determine the preferences of JASIS readers.

Sincerely yours,

Eugene Garfield, Ph.D.
Chairman Emeritus
Institute for Scientific Information, Inc.

Henry Small, Ph.D.
Director, Contract Research Services
Institute for Scientific Information, Inc.
3501 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104