A doctor did not know how to cite and reference for an article he had written. Such a lacuna in training is scary

A doctor did not know how to cite and reference for an article he had written. Such a lacuna in training is scary

An interesting experience:

A few months back I got a request from a doctor who had studied in India. He is now working in another country. He had written an article and this was the first time he had attempted to write for a journal. He asked if I would read it and tell him about any improvements needed. I told him that I would not be able to comment on the content. But I offered to help with the technical areas and formats. He was happy with my offer to help.

What did I do?

I read the article. It was not strictly on medical sciences, but had a technology element. I could understand the contents and felt it was pretty well written. I thought that a reviewer would either suggest acceptance or help with suggestions for fine tuning.

And – the catch!

But…. there was a catch. As I read, I found the citations were appearing in a funny order. The first citation in the paper was not [1], but another number. The first paragraph had randomly numbered citations. As I browsed further I found the same pattern in further paragraphs. For a minute, I could not fathom what the author had done.

The discovery

Then I scrolled down to the reference list. I found that he seemed to have put this list down first and then as he wrote the article, he inserted (manually), the relevant numbers from the list!

I am not sure if anyone has ever had a similar experience while helping an author. I explained to him that citations were first inserted in the article and the bibliography list needed to be in the order of the citations. He thanked me for this help.

Why do such incidents happen? I don’t know enough about this person – where he studied and if he were never encouraged to read an article (and pay attention to the citations and references). You may think that this is a one off case and you may be right.

But I believe that not a single person should graduate from any health sciences stream,
with such a lacuna in their learning

This doctor was  very happy to get my feedback and he said he would rework the article and send it. I don’t know what happened later, but I trust he has continued to learn.

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