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The art of citations August 15, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, papers, research, science.
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I had an art class in Governor’s school that really reminds me of how I feel when people look at my research.  Governor’s school, in North Dakota, is a six week program where you get to be immersed in a particular area of interest.  Usually this involves some in depth, hands-on experience.  I ended up spending six weeks doing research in a biology lab.  I came out of the experience knowing I loved research but hated biology, and that ultimately got me interested in a career in science.

Aside from all that, we had enrichment activities in the evenings.  My enrichment class was drawing.  I can’t remember the specific name of the project, but basically we were supposed to draw part of another image.  I chose to draw the Madonna’s face from Rafael’s Madonna de Foligno.  I was at a place where I didn’t have access to any good art supplies, so I just did the drawing on lined paper.  After I’d finished it up, I was terribly disappointed I’d not had any real drawing paper as it was one of the nicest drawings I’ve ever made.  I felt like the lines on the notebook paper really disrupted a beautiful image.

My art teacher was a college student, and even though the term hipster hadn’t yet been coined, that’s what immediately pops to mind when I think about him.  Rather than being impressed with my uber-awesome drawing skills, he thought the neatest thing about the drawing was that it was on lined paper.  I guess he thought it made it look modern or something like that.  I was livid.  I’d worked so hard to get the image right, and he only cared about how the paper made it look cool (which it didn’t).

This is how I feel when I get citations.

I really like Google Scholar’s profile option.  That being said, I’m almost always let down when I get one.  I don’t mean to be picky, but I’ve noticed that certain papers get a lot more citations than others.  The problem I have with this is that these aren’t my favorite papers: I think I have other papers that are better quality research.

What seems to happen is that one paper will be cited by someone, and once it’s cited, others will start using it as a reference.  Some of this obviously has to do with areas where research is more active, which is understandable.  I’m sure some of the papers are cited more simply because there’s more related literature coming out.  I have to admit, though, that it’s frustrating when a paper you aren’t all that fond of has far more references than the one you really poured yourself into.

It’s kind of like someone admiring your drawing because it’s on lined paper.

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Comments»

1. anandi - August 15, 2012

ooh, I didn’t know you could use Google Scholar to check citations. My one lonely paper has 10 🙂 But yeah, it’s interesting what other people choose to cite. I feel the same way about the stuff I sell on Etsy. Sometimes I’m all fired up about something, but it’s not the thing that sells, and I’ll sell 50x of something else that I think is not THAT awesome 😉

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2. karifur - August 15, 2012

I totally hear what you’re saying. I have a ridiculous need for external validation and thrive on positive feedback from others. This includes “likes” on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, and comments/likes on my WordPress blogs. But sometimes I am really disappointed when I post something I think is really funny and it hardly gets any thumbs ups.

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