References

Many different styles of referencing have developed over the years. National standards have been agreed in the USA, UK, Europe and China. However, few publishers appear to follow these standards precisely, perhaps because they each allow some degree of choice. Today variation seems rife, and this is made worse by computer-based systems for preparing references, such as EndNote, Procite and Reference Manager. EndNote (2007) proudly boasts that it includes 'more than 2,300 predefined bibliographic styles for leading journals', although quite why anyone should want such a number is anybody's guess.

Currently there are four main styles of referencing for academic articles, as follows:

1 The APA style. This system is also known as the Harvard or, more colloquially, as the 'name(date)' system. This is because an author's surname in the text is followed by the date of the publication in brackets, and entries in the reference list are listed alphabetically, starting with the name and the initials of the author(s) followed by the date of publication for each entry. For example:

Sharples, M. (Ed.). (1993). Computer supported collaborative writing. London: Springer-Verlag.

Speck, B. W., Johnson, T. R., Dice, C. P., & Heaton, L. B. (1999). Collaborative writing: An annotated bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Tang, C. (1998). Effects of collaborative learning on the quality of assignments. In B. Dart & G. Boulton-Lewis (Eds.), Teaching and learning in higher education (pp. 102—23). Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Zammuner, V. L. (1995). Individual and co-operative computer writing and revising: Who gets the best results? Learning and Instruction, 5(2), 101-24.

2 The Modern Languages Association (MLA) style. In this version the authors' surnames (with or without the dates) appear in the text and the first author's surname comes first in the reference list. This is followed by his or her first name, but first names then come first for any additional authors. Dates of the publications are given after journal titles, or at the end of the references for books, etc. The list is ordered alphabetically. For example:

Sharples, Michael (Ed.). Computer Supported Collaborative Writing. London: Springer-Verlag, 1993.

Speck, Bruce W., Teresa R. Johnson, Catherine Dice, and Leon B. Heaton. Collaborative Writing: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Tang, Catherine. 'Effects of collaborative learning on the quality of assignments.' Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Eds. Barry Dart and Gillian Boulton-Lewis. Pp. 103—23. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research, 1998.

Zammuner, Victoria L. 'Individual and co-operative computer writing and revising: Who gets the best results?' Learning and Instruction 5 (1995) 101-24.

3 The Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE) style. Here, the authors in the text are numbered in order of their appearance in the text, sometimes without their names, and the numbers are enclosed in square brackets. The reference list is then numbered sequentially. Names are presented with the initial(s) first, followed by surnames. Dates of the publications are given after journal titles, or at the end of the references for book, etc. Journal titles are sometimes abbreviated. For example:

[1] M. Sharples, Ed., Computer Supported Collaborative Writing. London: Springer-Verlag, 1993.

[2] V. L. Zammuner, 'Individual and co-operative computer writing and revising: Who gets the best results?' Learning and Instruction, vol. 5, no.2, pp. 101-24, 1995.

[3] C. Tang, 'Effects of collaborative learning on the quality of assignments,' in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, B. Dart and G. Boulton-Lewis, Eds. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research, 1998, pp. 102-23.

[4] B. W. M. Speck, T. R. Johnson, C. P. Dice and L. B. Heaton, Collaborative Writing: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1999.

An alternative version is to list (and number) the authors alphabetically in the reference list, and to assign these numbers to the authors in the text as appropriate.

4 The Vancouver style, popular in medical journals, is named after its inception following agreements made during a meeting in Vancouver in 1987 by the International Steering Committee of Medical Editors. Here, as with the IEEE system, the authors are numbered in the text in order of their appearance, and the numbers are enclosed in square brackets. The reference list is numbered sequentially, but the authors are listed surnames first, followed by their initials. Again the dates of publications are given after journal titles, or at the ends of the references for books etc. The key feature of the Vancouver style is its 'spare' typography and punctuation, and the use of abbreviated journal titles. For example:

1 Sharples M, editor. Computer supported collaborative writing. London: Springer-Verlag, 1993.

2 Zammuner VL. Individual and co-operative computer writing and revising: Who gets the best results? Learn Instruc 1995 ;5 (Pt 2): 101-24.

3 Tang C. Effects of collaborative learning on the quality of assignments. In: Dart B, Boulton-Lewis G, editors. Teaching and learning in higher education. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research, 1998;102-23.

4 Speck BWM, Johnson TR, Dice CP, Heaton LB. Collaborative writing: an annotated bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Each of these main referencing systems has advantages and disadvantages for both readers and authors. Some key points are, first, that the name(date) system clutters the text when long lists of references are given. For example, twenty names and dates might be cited in a row, whereas in the numbered system one simply puts [1-20]. Incidentally there seems to be some confusion here in the name(date) system over whether or not these lists of names and dates should be cited in alphabetical or historical order. I recommend one or the other (but not a mixture, as sometimes is the case). Second, it is difficult for readers to judge the recency of an in-text reference in a numbered reference system. Third, in writing the text, getting all of the numbers in sequence is tedious, especially when revising or rewriting the text (if this is not computer-aided). Finally, abbreviated journal titles cause difficulty for readers and authors unfamiliar with the abbreviations.

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