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Citation Checker Conversion Module


Quickly Change Citation and Reference Styles

Psychologists are generally fortunate, in that almost all journals in the field use APA style. The uniformity makes life fairly simple. But in the rest of the world, chaos reigns. There are many, many style variations out there among the thousands of journals published regularly. I became exposed to this problem when I began to do interdisciplinary work. I was asked to submit a paper to a journal that employed numerical citations and wanted the references in the order in which they appeared in the manuscript. In the references list, journal names had to be abbreviated, the date appeared not after the author's name but after the journal title, and italics were not used for the title or volume. It took hours for me to do the conversion. Worst of all, when the inevitable revisions were required, adding a new reference meant that all of the subsequent numerical citations had to be changed. Never again, I resolved.

But many folks, including me when I was on that interdisciplinary team, cannot simply refuse to use other journal styles. Psychologists write papers that can go in medical journals, in economics journals, in acoustics journals, even in a general publication like Science. So I built a conversion module that allows one to write the paper in APA style, then let software do the conversion. If revision proves necessary, it can be done in the APA version, and then re-converted.   

The conversion module was written to be as general as possible, to accommodate the style variations one finds across journals. I discovered that although a a journal might claim to use a named style, such as "Chicago", "Vancouver", or "Harvard", within a named style many minor variants could be observed. The authors' initials might have periods or not, might appear before or after the surname, might have spaces between them. Names could be joined by a comma, an ampersand(&), or nothing - the details were mind-boggling. 

My solution to the problem of many possibilities was to build an interface that lets the user select parameters to control the conversion. The interface looks like this:

Obviously, there are many parameters that can be adjusted. The resulting huge number of combinations accommodates most of the myriad ways in which journal styles vary. I did not think it was feasible to build preset styles for the thousands of journals, but I did automate a few that might appeal to behavioral scientists (the list appears in the Conversion Module FAQ). Here are the settings for the Journal of Neuroscience. With one click the program chooses the settings for you:

The original paper, typed in APA style, included this citation:

                              (Reyna & Brainerd, 2008)

and the corresponding reference was:

Reyna, V. F., & Brainerd, C. J. (2008). Numeracy, ratio bias, and denominator neglect in judgments of risk and probability. Learning and Individual Differences, 18, 89–107.

The Journal of Neuroscience uses "and", rather than the APA-style ampersand, for two-author citations. After conversion, the citation within the text became:

                      (Reyna and Brainerd, 2008)

while the reference was adjusted (notice there are no periods after the authors' initials or the date) to:

Reyna VF, Brainerd CJ (2008) Numeracy, ratio bias, and denominator neglect in judgments of risk and probability. Learn Indiv Dif 18:89-107.

The task of choosing the parameters can be simplified by using the automated settings. If the target journal is not in the list, it is likely that one of the journals in my list uses a style that is close to the required one. Often, only a small number of adjustments is needed.  

Some journals use a numbered citation style, where author names do not appear in the manuscript. The order of references corresponds to the order of a citation's first appearance in the manuscript. Here's how using the Risk Analysis preset style changes citations and references.

After the program had completed its work, the citation became a superscripted 39, and the reference had been transformed into:

39. Reyna VF, Brainerd CJ. Numeracy, ratio bias, and denominator neglect in judgments of risk and probability. Learn Indiv Dif 2008;18:89-107.