In Praise of the Bluebook
I realize that Bluebook bashing is something of a varsity sport among legal academics. And yes, much of the Bluebook’s arcana is profoundly annoying. But you know what? I’ll take that arcana over social science citation any day. I’ve been writing another “cognitive psychology of [insert concept here]” essay — mens rea, this time — and reading articles in psychology journals makes me want to kill myself. In no particular order:
1. Inserting references in the middle of a sentence makes the sentence impossible to read and is quite simply stupid. Here is an example of a sentence I actually quote in my essay:
Social projection affects predictions of how others see us (Felson, 1993; Kenny & DePaulo, 1993), predictions of how others see themselves (Krueger, 1998b; Krueger, Ham, & Linford, 1996), social stereotyping (Krueger, 1996a), voting behavior and political expectations (Granberg & Brent, 1983; Quattrone & Tversky, 1984; Regan & Kilduff, 1988), choices in social dilemmas (Messe & Sivacek, 1979; Orbell & Dawes, 1991), communication (Keysar, Barr, Balin, & Brauner, 2000; Nickerson, 1999), consumer behavior (West, 1996), and economic forecasts (Kahneman & Snell, 1992). Although the strength of projection varies, no particular person characteristic or type of judgment item consistently fails to show projection. People project even when they are asked not to or when they receive feedback on the accuracy of their predictions (Krueger & Clement, 1994); they project regardless of their level of cognitive busyness (Krueger & Stanke, 2001) and regardless of information they have about other individuals (Alicke & Largo, 1995; Clement & Krueger, 2000; Kenny & Acitelli, 2001; Schul & Vinokur, 2000).
2. Endnotes are bad. Yeah, I groan when I see a page that contains two lines of text and 30 lines of footnotes. But it’s still better than having to mark my place in an article, find the bibliography, and scan an endless list of references listed in 9-pt. font.
3. Citing articles as 2000a, 2000b, and 2000c is ridiculous. Do I really need to waste my time (1) finding the right group of authors in the long list — is it Finkel? Finkel and Groscup? Finkel et al.? — and (2) searching within the right group for the right year and article? Here’s a hint: no.
4. Signals! Again, yes the Bluebook is a pain: see, see, e.g., see also, cf., see generally. I don’t understand them either. But at least the Bluebook tries. Social science citations? Not so much. They just sit there doing nothing. Maybe the cited work makes the point directly, maybe it doesn’t. That’s for the cite to know and you to find out.
5. Page numbers! Okay, I lied: there is a particular order. I saved the absolutely completely utterly worst thing about social science citations for last. For the love of God, give me a page number with the cite — and not just when you quote an article directly. (Itself a spotty practice.) Yeah, social science articles are not as long as law-review articles. Yeah, I can save all my sources as PDFs and search them for particular words. But really, what’s easier: that, or adding a page number to the cite? I think you know the answer.
Here endeth the rant. Bluebook editors, I’ll never bad-mouth you again.