Perhaps you do as I do; in that last-minute tidy up of citations, I google "journal abbreviations" and try to find suitable abbreviations for the last few remaining articles. Or sometimes I spend a quiet afternoon searching through the list of citations in recent articles from that journal just to find how out to cite that particular journal!
But sometimes a little voice inside me cries "Why!" - why am I wasting the best years of my life solving the non-problem that is how to abbreviate the title of a particular journal? Don't journals want to be cited correctly? In this age of electronic linking of data, misspelling the journal abbreviation could mean that a citation to a particular journal would be missed. Since journals seem to think that Impact Factors are so important, couldn't they at least give some hint what abbreviation they think you should use?
So, on to my favourite part: "The Case Study", aka "The one that pushed me over the edge". I wanted to cite a paper from Nucleic Acids Research. This is commonly known (to me) as NAR. Indeed, the website, is nar.oxfordjournals.org. And the blurb on the front page says "Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) is a fully Open Access journal". Fantastic, NAR must be the accepted journal abbreviation. Job done.
Just to be sure, let's check the Instructions for Authors. Here they give an example of how they wish references to be formatted. The great thing is that the examples they give are from NAR:
1. Schmitt,E., Panvert,M., Blanquet,S. and Mechulam,Y. (1995) Transition state stabilisation by the 'high' motif of class I aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases: the case of Escherichia coli methionyl-tRNA synthetase. Nucleic Acids Res., 23, 4793-4798....but wait a second, that's "Nucleic Acids Res." not "NAR"!
Now our curiosity (aka annoyance) is piqued, so let's check out the current issue of Nucleic Acids Research. But what's that in the title of the page, "Nucl. Acids Res. -- Table of Contents...".
So NAR, or "Nucl. Acids Res." or "Nucleic Acids Res."? And don't even get me started on why journals require these abbreviations in the first place even if they are web-only...
Image credit: Raistrick's Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations by ex_libris_gul (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)