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I am currently editing an M.S. thesis. The author uses the following construction often:

"Nanot et al. have demonstrated the existence of negative conductivity in graphene [8]."

where reference [8] is a link to Nanot's work. Since roughly every sentence is referenced, this causes "last name pandemonium", in that someone (who no one cares about) is named in roughly every sentence. I would like to change the construction to the following:

"The existence of negative conductivity in graphene has been demonstrated [8]."

Is this better? Are there rules for when you cite a researcher by name vs. citing the result?

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Regardless of what anyone here may recommend, or how judicious that recommendation may be, such matters are governed entirely by the institution granting the degree, or the department to whom it is submitted. Usually a style sheet or manual published by the relevant professional association—in the US, for instance, MLA or APA—will be designated as authoritative. –  StoneyB Oct 31 '12 at 23:28
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Stoney is right. Ask the author why he did it that way. He may well point you to the document which requires it. –  GEdgar Nov 1 '12 at 1:37
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You could migrate this to academia.stackexchange.com, since citations is a tag there. –  Fuhrmanator Nov 1 '12 at 3:25
    
@GEdgar: No academic or otherwise commercial style manual requires "and/or". –  user21497 Nov 1 '12 at 10:20
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closed as off topic by StoneyB, tchrist, MετάEd, Kris, coleopterist Nov 1 '12 at 5:56

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Unless your institution's style manual for an MS thesis requires that you include the name(s) of the author(s) of every cited reference -- and I can't believe that there's any institution that stupid -- I'd eliminate all names unless they're needed in a specific discussion (sometimes they are when you're discussing the work of many authors who need to be differentiated). Even the absurd APA Style Manual doesn't demand that.

Even the phrase "has been demonstrated" can be eliminated simply because you have a reference citation, # [8], to support the claim about negative conductivity in graphene. So you can say it less verbosely, probably as a parenthetical remark in another sentence, or just as a simple declarative with the reference citation in square brackets, as in your example sentence:

"Graphene is negatively conductive [8]."

or

"The dynamic negative ac conductivity of graphene [8] {means / causes / implies} that..."

or

"The absolute negative conductivity of graphene [8] {means / causes / implies} that..."

I make this kind of edit all the time in biomedical papers where nobody cares who said what, unless it was Crick & Watson (The Double Helix). Authors include that information because they don't have to think so much about how to craft their sentences if they begin them with, e.g., Jones et al. [1] {demonstrated / reported / said / observed} that... or As shown in Figure 1,....

Cut the unnecessary words. Use author names only when necessary.

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I think you have hit on one of the key decisions - if you have a plethora of references, it can help your paper read much better if you just add the reference note inline, and collect all your citations at the end (either of the page, or of the document.)

An example you could look at (not very scientific, I know) would be Wikipedia - which collects citations and references at the foot of the page.

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Citation style varies widely with discipline and perhaps somewhat less with institution.

The minimum that you can 'get away with' that is useful and that meets the style guides for the authority that matters seems appropriate. But delivering less than their minimum may be fatal.

I have had the good fortune to not have had much personal experience in dealing with institutions who will reject your work unless every last citation jot & tittle is in place*. However, my learned children have, and I recall one needing to ensure that punctuation, formatting, nomenclature, capiTaLization and more of their citations was "just so" in order to pass muster and to avoid near certain rejection.

So, finding and applying the standards and style guides of your intended recipients of your editing may well be in order.


  • Except in now long distant undergraduate days when I received a series of C grades, from a visiting US academic, for what I knew to be [tm] brilliantly done lab reports. After I received the third in a row I asked why and was told that it was because I had "numbered" the pages in Hebrew. So it goes. My internationally recognised Professor on another course just asked "Is that Hebrew?".
    [The visiting lecturer was subsequently found to have falsified his credentials :-) ].
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I have always found it odd that after generations of requiring graduate students to document with minimally obtrusive but very expensive footnotes, the Academic Establishment abruptly converted to ugly and disruptive in-line citation -- at exactly the moment when the advent of PCs and word processors made footnoting easy and cheap. –  StoneyB Oct 31 '12 at 23:37
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