Reference Bloat in Management Journals Meets its Match

Josh Wright —  6 February 2012

Peter Klein offers up some thoughts on “reference bloat” in academic journals:

Nature News (via Bronwyn Hall):

One in five academics in a variety of social science and business fields say they have been asked to pad their papers with superfluous references in order to get published. The figures, from a survey published today in Science, also suggest that journal editors strategically target junior faculty, who in turn were more willing to acquiesce.

I think reference bloat is a problem, particularly in management journals (not so much in economics journals). Too many papers include tedious lists of references supporting even trivial or obvious points. It’s a bit like blog entries that ritually link every technical term or proper noun to its corresponding wikipedia entry. “Firms seek to position themselves and acquire resources to achieve competitive advantage (Porter, 1980; Wernerfelt, 1984; Barney, 1986).” Unless the reference is non-obvious, narrowly linked to a specific argument, etc., why include it? Readers can do their Google Scholar searches if needed.

In management this strikes me as a cultural issue, not necessarily the result of editors or reviewers wanting to build up their own citation counts. But I’d be curious to hear about reader’s experiences, either as authors or (confession time!) editors or reviewers.

With all due respect to management journals for requiring citations for authority that water runs downhill, demand curves slope downward and so forth, I’ve got my money on the law reviews.

4 responses to Reference Bloat in Management Journals Meets its Match

  1. 

    How can you post about law review referencing without mentioning the classic parody, “The Common Law Origins of the Infield Fly Rule” in the 1975 U. Pennsylvania Law Review, which begins with the word “The” and references it to the OED?

  2. 

    There are plenty of people in management that don’t believe demand curves exist.

  3. 

    I won’t take that bet. 🙂