I am an unscrupulous, unscrupulous formatter

Knowing about my constant and abiding interest in all things peer-review, a colleague handed me this pamphlet the other day.  Published by a project I like, Sense about Science (and funded by, among others, Elsevier, Blackwell, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, the Institute of Biology and the Medical Research Council), this pamphlet provides a good summary of a lot of reasons why people should value peer-reviewed research.

I really like its focus on the reproducability of research, the role that peer review plays in getting science out there to be acted upon by other scientists.  And this statement here gets at a lot of what I have been thinking about information evaluation lately – about how important it is that we evaluate sources within contexts, not in a vacuum:

If it is peer-reviewed, you can look for more information on what other scientists say about it, the size and approach of  the study and whether it is a part of a body of evidence pointing towards the same conclusions.

But this has me mystified.  A callout box titled How can you tell whether reported results have been peer reviewed? A question any academic reference librarian has struggled to answer at some point, right?

Their answer totally mystifies me.  I keep reading it and reading it and I can’t make it make any sense.   Seriously – they say the full reference to peer-reviewed papers is likely to look like this, and then they present – two formatted article citations, one from the New England Journal of Medicine and one from Science.  The Science one is APA, but I’m not even sure exactly what style the second one follows.

just formatted citations, right?

just formatted citations, right?

So under the citations, there’s a word balloon that says that unscrupulous people might “use this style on websites and articles to cite work that is not peer reviewed. But fortunately, this is rare.”

!

Wait, what?   So yeah, it turns out that I’m totally unscrupulous!  And so are you if you use APA to cite an article from the New Republic, or Time or The Journal of Really Lousy Non-Peer Reviewed Science!

I am so confused!  What do they mean by this?

One thought on “I am an unscrupulous, unscrupulous formatter

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