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I am reviewing a journal paper and the authors constantly use sentences of the sort

"this research, see references [1] and [2], has shown some success"

It seems to me this is ungrammatical, and that it should be instead:

"this research (see references [1] and [2]) has shown some success"

but what can I say to convince them? That is, what is the rule being infringed here?

Thanks.

PS: please note that my question was not on references format, but about English grammar in general. They are including a separate sentence (in the imperative) and separating it with commas, and that is what seemed incorrect to me, in the same way that

"I was watching this show, check it out tonight, that tells the story of a man (...)"

This seems fine as colloquial English but not as formal English. Is this the case and, if so, what is the reason?

Thanks.

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The reason you are looking for is called "comma splice" --

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma_splice

I'm with you. I don't see commas as being appropriate punctuation here. I'd go with either parens or em dashes, as in the following:

"This research--see references [1] and [2]--has shown some success."

The em dashes are more obtrusive, though. My first choice would be parens. I'd hope, too, that your colleagues don't interrupt mid-sentence when it's not necessary. I'd like to recast your example as "This research has shown some success (see references [1] and [2])."

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As a former law review editor, the answer to your question should be in the style guide adopted by your journal. Many style guides tend to recommend parentheses, but allow for commas in some cases. See an MLA primer, an APA primer, and a Harvard style primer. In the legal field, there is one dominant style guide, The Bluebook, but some courts and journals, including the US Supreme Court, have their own style requirements. I found a very old version of The Bluebook online, but the advice is generally the same as it is today.

[A] [c]itation . . . may be inserted into the text itself in appositive clauses set off by commas.

Conclusion: ask your editor-in-chief what the style requirements are for your journal.

  • Thanks. I would like to note that my question was not on references format, but about English grammar in general. They are including a separate sentence (in the imperative) and separating it with commas, and that is what seemed incorrect to me, in the same way that "I was watching this show, check it out tonight, that tells the story of a man (...)" This seems fine as colloquial English but not as formal English. Is this the case and, if so, what is the reason? Thanks. – user118967 Feb 5 '15 at 7:48
  • You can use commas or parentheses. Citations to a source are treated exactly like a sentence: one more or more of the links in my answer explicitly states to capitalize the first word and end the sentence with a period if the citation is a stand alone sentence. Technically, it is a fragment, but similar to the implied "You" in "Go home!", citations come loaded with an implied "The previous claim is supported by..." Even though I thought you were talking about citations, the answer you are looking for might still be using appositive clauses. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apposition – hunterhogan Feb 5 '15 at 8:18

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