Saturday, October 18, 2014

Helpful Review Vs. Not

The boon and bane of our academic enterprise is that we get feedback all the time on our work.  Our work is better for it--that the hack-iest stuff I read is always stuff that is not submitted to any kind of refereeing process and relies instead on editors who seem to be blind to the hack-ness.

The bane is that, well, rejection and criticism can not only delay publication but also hurt feelings.  Today's particular focus is on reviews that focus on stuff that one "should have cited."

I am thinking of this because I got teased today after I griped:

What is the Saideman Helpfulness Standard©?  Well, this specific discussion was about the citations a reviewer asked me to include in my work.  I was highly annoyed because I had to spend time reading a bunch of stuff that did not change my outlook or add new information.  I did find thus far one citation that was useful, but the rest were not. 

So, the SHS is this:
  • does the recommended citation compel the author to better defend the originality of the argument?  That is, if this argument has been made before, the author should justify why it is worth making again.
  • does the citation provide an argument that must be addressed?
  • does the citation provide information that the piece (article/book) could use to strengthen the argument?
  • does the citation provide information that challenges the arguments of the article/book?
What is the SUS (Saideman Unhelpfulness Standard©)?
  • a citation that provides information or arguments that the author has already addressed,
  • a citation that is a slightly different version of a piece that is already cited.  For instance, saying that one should cite Saideman and Auerswald 2012 even though the work cites Auerswald and Saideman 2014 (the latter is more comprehensive than the former).  This would make sense if one wants more citations--the former is an article which citation indexes capture well, and the latter is a book.  Why add more cites if the basic argument/info is already included in stuff that is already cited?
What is the SSUS (Saideman Super Unhelpful Standard©)?
  • Citations of unpublished works. Yes, the internet is a miracle, but there are limits to one what can do when writing an article.
  • Citations of works that come out after the work under review has been submitted for review.  Until we perfect time travel, this is what we call a party foul.  It is perfectly fine for a reviewer to suggest how new work could improve the piece under review, but cannot expect that omitting this newest stuff should be grounds for rejecting the manuscript.
  • Citations of the reviewer's work.  Yes, I have sometimes criticized a piece I was reviewing for not citing me, but I always feel awkward about it and only do it when the author(s) are ignoring not just me but a key argument that they should be addressing. 

I am sure I am forgetting stuff that fits into these three categories (is there a fourth category?), so let me know what I am missing, including stuff I should have cited.

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