Friday, October 09, 2015

Citation overkill

I've commented before on the tendency I see in academic papers to pile up citations by mentioning something rather trite and then throwing in an authority who has mentioned it previously.

Tonight, in reviewing the Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, I ran across this gem:

"Good nutrition is essential for human growth and maintenance (Scott 1986)."

I guess Dr. Scott, in 1986, was the very first person to ever have noted this! I would not be surprised, later in this paper, to find a citation like:

"Days on the earth are characterized by periods of light, occurring when the sun is in the sky, and subsequent periods of darkness, when it is not (Hesiod 700 BCE)."


  1. Gene, it is probably a combination of overly eager undergraduates who plagiarize and their overly eager professors to crack down on this plagiarizing. Right now, at least in the undergraduate world, the pressure to cite literally *everything* is intense. Maybe this spills over to the higher levels (graduate level and PhD).

    1. Exactly. High school required me make citations for most obvious things. I hate formal requirements in paper writing.


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