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Information Culture

Information Culture

Thoughts and analysis related to science information, data, publication and culture.

Frustration of the day: unclear article numbers

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Over the past couple of days, I have been reviewing some citations for student projects. Several of the students submitted citations in which they expressed confusion over what page numbers to include.

The problem: Many journals no longer publish a print version and have switched to using article numbers. Unfortunately, some publishers make these article numbers difficult to find and often don’t label them.

Example 1: Several Springer journals caused trouble for my students. The journal provides relatively clear metadata at the bottom of the article landing page, with the exception of failing to label the volume and article numbers.

Opening the article PDF doesn’t help much. At the top of the page is a lot of important information about the article, but the volume and article numbers aren’t labeled.

Example #2: Compounding the issue is that some journals have a “cite this article” feature that provides a citation using an article number that I wasn’t able to find listed anywhere else. In the screenshot below, I had to click on “How to Cite” to open the suggested citation in which the article number was listed.

The Wiley article includes this number in the PDF version, but doesn’t clearly label it in any way.

This lack-of-clarity frustrated my students trying to create their citations, and it frustrated me as I explained over-and-over what was going on and acknowledged that no, this doesn’t make any sense.

In previous posts, I urged publishers to be clear about their peer review processes and abandon journal title abbreviations. This week, I’d really like them to add just a couple of words clarifying what the numbers mean.

Coda:

The article numbers may just be a temporary feature. As DOIs become the accepted standard for referring to articles, we may find that page numbers and article numbers and issue numbers and even volume numbers go away. But in the meantime, page numbers or article numbers are required for almost all citation styles and publishers could make them a bit easier to find.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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