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Goldberg, A. (1999). Citation Disorder. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(3):873-874.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(3):873-874

Citation Disorder

Arnold Goldberg

April 13, 1999. There can be little doubt that being afflicted with a disorder allows for a certain insight and appreciation of its symptoms—their extent along with their intensity. Therefore my own participation in the ranks of those who suffer from a recurrent obsession or, better put, addiction to the study of bibliographic references has given me license to offer a few observations about its causes and possible treatment. There is at present no hope for a cure, but perhaps some lessening of the severity of the discomfort can be effected. That it is a genuine malady I have no doubt.

My lifelong interest in the “back of the book,” where the reference list is presented, was given sharper focus recently when an article of mine was returned with a suggestion by the anonymous readers to cite two authors who had made some sort of contribution to my subject. I naturally assumed that these references were to the works of the readers of my submission. Since I had never read or even heard of either of these authors, I was able to recognize that the adding of their names was meant for some reason other than the usual one of telling the readers where I had come by my information. My naivete was quickly shattered as I began to ponder just what the purpose of the bibliography was meant to be. So I made a list.

1.   To tell readers the source of your ideas

2.   To inform readers where they might get more information about the subject, pro and con

3.   To alert readers to the lack of originality of your ideas so that there can be no doubt as to whom credit is due

4.   To communicate with people in order to tell them you are thinking of them (the bibliography as Christmas card list)

5.   To establish your credentials as a humble student

As I began to scrutinize my list, I realized that I myself used that other list—of references—in all of these ways. That seemed to be the end of it, until I had occasion to read two very different articles.

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