Should citations on PowerPoint slides be shortened?

  • Are there guidelines or best practices for adding references to a research PowerPoint presentation?

    For example, should I put the full citation at the bottom of the slide?

    Liu, J., Rinzler, A. G., Dai, H., Hafner, J. H., Bradley, R. K., Boul, P. J., Smalley, R. E. (1998). Fullerene Pipes. Science, 280(5367), 1253–1256.

    If you have even a couple references, this slide starts to look really busy.

    I've seen quite a few presentations with truncated references (just first author, journal, year), like so:

    Liu, J., et al. Science (1998)

    Is this shortened reference alright? It looks cleaner on the slide, but at the expense of the ease of the viewer locating a reference. Any other solutions? If it makes a difference, this would be for the engineering/science fields.

    Option B is most common in my neck of the woods (electrical engineering), mainly for the reason you already gave: it looks "cleaner."

    If you make your slides available for download, turn your short references into DOI links.

    This question is very close to that other question.

    I would leave the citations off the slides completely. Presumably there is a complete write-up. Put the cites in there. Or possibly your slide-making software lets you make notes for each slide. You can put the full cite on there and hand out notes. But I really hate looking at an incomplete cite such as the last one. Not hunting through an entire year of Science to find this paper.

    @puppetsock Not every talk ever has notes, or is set up for notes to be handed out. A shortened citation style like this is a good compromise.

    @AzorAhai In what way is it good? It's of no use whatever. As I said, I'm not hunting through an entire year of Science to find this paper.

    The question is old, but honestly I am a bit shocked about the bad advice to include incomplete references to a slide. Excuses dealing with the beauty of the slides are inacceptable when it comes to proper references. In your example, writing "Science, 280(5367), 1253–1256." at least would allow to locate the source unambiguously.

    @puppet I've never struggled to locate a paper in this manner. It's not often the same first author has two papers in the same journal where they're so close it's impossible to tell what's meant. Perhaps that's field dependent

    @Snij The point is not necessarily to provide a way for audience members to locate a paper. First of all, audiences may recognize the first author or be familiar with the paper based on the authors and year. No one could identify a paper in the format you gave, compared to the proposed style. Second It's easier to write down and remember a name than a string of numbers. Third, many journals don't even have page numbers anyway. Fourth it's much easier to perform a library search by author year journal than by issue. Fifth, what would you do with multiple references?

    @Azor Ahai You can add the first author of you like, no objections. More complete info is better. I disagree with the rest of your comment. And references are a crucial part in scientific work. They need room. It is okay if they are visible. If you have multiple references just list them on the slides in some short but complete version. Seriously, it improves your presentation. But I see that my point of view represents a minority here.

  • jakebeal

    jakebeal Correct answer

    6 years ago

    I would strongly recommend against putting the full citation at the bottom of the slide. The problem is, when you are actually presenting, it will both a) make the slide look very busy as you note, and b) distract people away from the rest of the slide. Another problem is that few people will actually be able to copy down the citation (unless you linger on the slide for a very long time).

    Truncated references deal with all of these problems, generally giving just enough information for a quickly scribbled note that will give the reader the ability to track down the cited paper with a little bit of work.

    In addition, however, if you will be making the slides available for others to read at their leisure, there are two other good places to put references:

    1. A "bibliography" slide at the end, before or after where many put the funding/acknowledgements slide.
    2. In the "notes" field associated with the slide on which the truncated reference appears.

    This is especially good when dealing with funding agencies, who like to pull slides out of your deck for presentation to their own higher-ups.

    It's more useful if a reference appears right where it was used. By the time a Bilbliography slide comes along, it's too late -- no one will remember why they need to know the reference. I find including a last slide in the deck that I might refer to when answering questions (Not some silly slide that say "questions") has a whole bunch more utility than a bib slide.

    I am sorry to say, but this is terrible advice. Giving unambiguous references is way more important than anything you write.

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