While looking over a friend’s bioethics paper, I noticed the following citation:

(Samways, 261, 1993)

It looks like a normal citation, but wait– what is that number in the middle? Is that a page number? Yes, it is!

This immediately brought back memories of 9th grade when I was formally trained how to take notes and cite sources. In those days of MLA, providing a citation with the page number was key to fighting plagiarism, the enemy of original thought, and what is more valuable to education than that? (I guess funding, but that’s beside the point ).

You see, I miss page numbers. I haven’t seen page numbers since my literary criticism classes in college, where a page number showed that yes, you did read all of those sources you listed in the bibliography. Or at least the important parts of them.

Oftentimes, a page number is all that stands between looking up a single sentence or spending hours rifling through hundreds of pages trying find that one stupid sentence.

Where was that sentence with all the information I need? I swear, I just saw it five minutes ago.... Photo by Carolyn Trietsch. All rights reserved.

Why don’t we use page numbers in science? Is it because it’s a lot of work? Or is it because page numbers aren’t useful anymore, as most of us read online publications as soon as they are released in our efforts to stay up to date  with the cutting edge of science?

Though I understand that online sources can be more easily navigated with “Ctrl-F”, I think that page numbers are still immensely useful in citations. It communicates  to your reader that you are not just making things up and attributing them to someone else—it shows that you did get that fact from somewhere, and that you can show exactly where you got it from. It shows  that you can be held accountable for your work, and that you can back up what you’re saying with more than just an author name and year.

Page numbers are more than just a courtesy to your readers––they facilitate your readers’ own research by directing them towards relevant portions of other relevant research. And isn’t clear communication our responsibility as scientists?

Page numbers are also immensely helpful to the author. Haven’t you ever fallen into the trap where you read something but forget where it was in the paper, and you know it’s in there, but you can’t find it ?

I don’t think that adding page numbers is a waste of time, especially when you’re doing citations anyway. In fact, the simple act of jotting down the page number can save time when you need to go back to the original source and check something, and suddenly don’t have to reread the entire source to find that one thing you were looking for.

Give page numbers a chance, and try it out for yourself—what’s the worst that can happen?

Last year I received two Io moth caterpillars. They promptly made cocoons for themselves and I put them in the fridge to overwinter. I took them out in April and have been waiting for them to emerge since then. It took a few months, but one finally emerged yesterday!

A female Io moth, showing off the golden eye spots on her hind wings. Photo by Carolyn Trietsch, CC BY 2.0. Click for source.

As soon as I picked it up, the moth flared its hind wings out in a warning display. The moths flash the eye spots on their hind wings to startle birds and other predators.

Female Io moth. Photo by Carolyn Trietsch (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Both males and females have large eye spots on the hind wings, but the color of the fore wings and bodies differ between the sexes. The females are typically reddish-brown, while the males are yellow. This moth is a female.