Journal of the American Society for Information Science (JASIS) 48(10) p.964, October 1997


Letters by Charles T. Meadow, Ronald E. Rice, and Christine L. Borgman
on "Citation Format"



Seldom have I heard of better argument for hypertext over conventional linear text (which superiority I rarely accept, otherwise) than in this recent correspondence over citation styles. Yes, it's hard to find the citing text if sequential numbers are not used. Yes, also, it's hard to browse the bibliography of a paper in which citations are listed in the order cited. And yes, indeed, finding the location of a cite is trivial in well-written hypertext.

Surely, there could be a compromise for print publications, such as appending to the end of a citation the page ( s ) on which reference is made to the work cited. Of course, changing the method of citation is like proposing a re-interpretation of the Bible (whichever one you like).

Charles T. Meadow
Faculty of information Studies
University of Toronto
140 St George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G6



Gosh. I always felt that numeric listing was an unbelievable hindrance, especially in revisions. I can easily see how that approach would be very useful for bibliometricians, who work from the reference list. But almost no author or reader does it that way -- they work from the text. In which case alphabetic is easiest. Even when you want to peruse a bibliography, you want to hone in first on expected authors, and to traverse a long numericial bibliography each time you want to check for one author (ignoring that multiple articles by the same author may be dispersed throughout a numeric listing) is difficult. This comes down to an indexing issue, basically, and different stakeholders have different indexing preferences and uses. But the prime consumers -- authors and readers -- probably index alphabetically, not numerically. I suppose to some extent this is an empirical question.

Ronald E. Rice
School of Communication Information and Library Studies
Rutgers University
4 Huntington Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903



As the JASIS board member who proposed the American Psychological Association format, I feel compelled to respond to the letter from Drs. Garfield and Small proposing that we revert to A numbered citation format.

The arguments laid out in my letter to the editor (Borgman 1985) presented the issues to the ASIS membership in 1985. Several responded with letters to the editor. My letter formed the basis for discussion by the editorial board, held at an ASIS annual meeting. The new policy was set forth in an editorial by you. Thus it was discussed with the membership at the time.

As someone who conducts bibliometric research I understand the arguments of Drs. Garfield and Small. However, their perspectives as publishers are only one part of the picture. I stand by my arguments presented more than a decade ago that the APA format is far easier for authors to produce and for readers to follow, and is less prone to error. Contrary to their claims, creating numbered formats is an "unbearable, time consuming task'' for the author. The numbered format causes so many difficulties for the author that I rarely submit my work to journals that employ those formats. When I do, I submit the manuscript in APA form and agree to number the final manuscript only after all corrections have been approved, to assure accuracy. If the question of returning to numbered formats were submitted to authors today, I would expect an overwhelming endorsement of APA

JASIS must compete with many other journals for manuscripts. Throwing up roadblocks to the submission process only decreases JASIS' competitiveness in an open marketplace of ideas.

As a reader, I find numbered formats a nuisance as well -- they require constant flipping to the back, they do not bring familiar and unfamiliar names to the attention of the reader, and they do not create an alphabetic bibliography that brings together authors by name. The end note sequence does not stand alone, as an alphabetic list does.

I applaud JASIS for having taken the great leap forward 10 years ago to a more modern, readable format and in the time since, the array of manuscripts submitted has increased in number and variety not coincidentally, in my opinion!

Christine L. Borgman
Department of Library and Information Science
Graduate School of Education & Information Studies
2320A Moore Hall, Box 95121
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles CA 90024-1521

Borgman C. L. (1985) Citations format. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 36: 420