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Where You Give Credit
Bibliographies, footnotes and parentheticals
You give credit in two ways: within the paper in footnotes or parentheticals and at the end of a paper in the bibliography.
- DEFINITION: A list of sources used in a research paper.
It is composed of a list of citations. Citations include the author, when listed on the work, the title, and the publication information of a work. The bibliography usually appears at the end of a research paper. Depending on the style used, it may be called bibliography, references, works cited, or other terms.
WANT TO SEE some citations?
> Unit 4 > A Primer on Databases and Catalogs
> Unit 5 > The Great GALILEO
Footnotes and parentheticals
Most styles use either footnotes, endnotes, or parentheticals. Footnotes are placed at the bottom of a page, and endnotes are placed on a separate page at the end of the paper. Most word processors will do these for you automatically.
A parenthetical is a brief reference in parentheses at the end of a sentence referring the reader to a full citation in the bibliography. The name 'parentheticals' comes from the fact that this type of citation is enclosed in brackets which is another word for 'parentheses'.
Both footnotes and parenthicals are ways in which the researcher gives credit within a research paper. For more information on footnotes and parentheticals, refer to a style manual.
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One basic element of publication ethics requires that an author give proper credit to those who contributed to the research. There are two ways to violate this guideline: not giving enough credit and giving too much credit.
Too Little Credit
Researchers are often accused of claiming more credit than they deserve for a notable research result. Claiming a breakthrough without acknowledging previous work leading up to it is quite common in the history of science and has led to some famous controversies over priority. In fact, Antoine Lavoisier may not have been the “Father of Chemistry” so much as the gifted pupil of several other researchers. He definitely built on earlier work in his field but had a way of writing his results that implied, without quite saying so, that he had come up with all the ideas on his own. If deliberate, this was unethical.
Isaac Newton, though he modestly spoke of standing on the shoulders of giants, was not always so generous to living rivals. If he didn’t like a certain researcher, he wouldn’t cite him in an article any more than was absolutely necessary. This is unethical but is fairly common practice among researchers even today.
Too Much Credit
Giving unjustified credit is just as unethical as denying credit although it rarely provokes the affected party in the same way. Giving copious but unnecessary citations to a colleague (“courtesy citations”) is one example. Including a colleague as a coauthor when he had contributed nothing to the content of the paper is more egregious, especially if the colleague happens to be a superior. This sort of author padding was said to be common practice in the Soviet Union. “Their equivalent of the chairman of the department gets his name on every paper in the department,” a friend informed me. Different customs and cultural factors make this a grey area.
How much autonomy do the individual researchers have and how does the chairman actually involve himself in the work? When does an acknowledgement of “helpful discussions” transition to a co-authorship? A flagrant example of unjustified credit occurred in 1948 when grad student Ralph Alpher and his adviser George Gamow prepared a paper on “The Origin of Chemical Elements,” arguing that the Big Bang would have created all the elements found in the early universe. Before sending it off to Physical Review, Gamow added the name of his friend Hans Bethe as coauthor. His justification for doing this was nothing more than “It seemed unfair to the Greek alphabet to have the article signed by Alpher and Gamow only.” Get it? Alpha, beta, gamma—A, B, C. Bethe was amused. Not Alpher. He thought that having two well known physicists listed as coauthors on the paper would minimize his contribution. As much as I like a good joke in science, I have to agree.
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