How To Make Your Scientific Paper Better In Five Minutes

I’ve been published!

This was mostly good luck. John Bullock had an interesting research idea, and he needed someone to help out. I was available, and sufficiently interested in recording information for posterity. (Hence this blog — shout-out to those of you reading this in the 22nd century!)


The Paper

Modern science has a big problem. Well, a lot of big problems, but this one has the distinction of being easy to fix.

The problem is reference rot, which is what happens when you cite in your political science paper and then Trump gets inaugurated.

That is to say: The link breaks, and no one will ever know what the heck you were citing. Which makes them less likely to cite you, and also just makes it really annoying to do science.

This happens to a startling number of links in scientific papers and other official documentation. And it happens fast. Our paper found that, in the most prestigious journal in political science, more than a quarter of links cited in 2013 were broken by the end of 2014!

If you publish research papers, or anything else with hyperlinks, you’re at risk.


Fix Your Work in Five Minutes

How to avoid reference rot:

  1. Before you submit your final manuscript for publication, ask yourself: “Self, have I cited any online materials in this paper?”
  2. If so, replace every link with a permanent, archived version of that link. You can make these with The Internet Archive or Perma.
  3. There is no step three.

If you’re a blogger, you can also do this, but it’s tedious. Instead, I use the WordPress extension “Broken Link Checker”, which alerts me to any links that go dead and lets me replace them with the Internet Archive version in one click.

When you start to use archived links, you’ll officially be storing information more securely than the Supreme Court.


John Bullock Bonus

Before this paper, Bullock published a more substantial paper with a more important researcher who shares my initials (Alan Gerber).

The authors find that, while Democrats and Republicans claim to believe very different things about history, those differences shrink when partisans are offered money for correct answers to historical questions. They’re cheering for their beliefs, not professing them seriously.

If only there were a way to combine money and politics in a way that would convince partisans to disclose their true beliefs…


How to Start a College Magazine, Part Four: Survival and Growth

This is the last article in a four-part series on starting a college magazine, written by the former Chairman of the Yale Record, America’s oldest humor magazine. There’s a lot of information here; pick and choose whatever seems helpful. 


In the first three parts of this series, I gave advice about starting a publication, recruiting writers and other staff, and putting together your first few issues.

This is the cleanup post, where I talk about everything else. It will make more sense if you read the other posts first. Topics covered include:

  • Publicizing your work
  • Funding the publication
  • Selling advertisements
  • Staying out of trouble
  • Preserving your history


Find Readers, Get Famous

You’ve published an issue! Congratulations.

Now what?

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Empathy and Heroism

(Faithful readers: You can now subscribe to this blog!)


My last two posts for Applied Sentience are up:

Within, I discuss some thoughts I’ve had recently on the problems with empathy, and how we need another layer of moral feeling on top of empathy — for which I borrow the term “heroic responsibility” from Eliezer Yudkowsky — if we want to do good in difficult situations.

The posts total about 2500 words, but this post provides a brief summary.

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My Senior Thesis: How Can Great Charities Raise More Money?

I haven’t written a blog post for nearly a full season.

One-third of this phenomenon is the fault of my senior thesis:

Charitable Fundraising and Smart Giving: How can charities use behavioral science to drive donations?

It’s a very long thesis, and you probably shouldn’t read the whole thing. I conducted my final round of editing over the course of 38 hours in late April, during which I did not sleep. It’s kind of a slog.

Here’s a PDF of the five pages where I summarize everything I learned and make recommendations to charities:

The Part of the Thesis You Should Actually Read


In the rest of this post, I’ve explained my motivation for actually writing this thing, and squeezed my key findings into a pair of summaries: One that’s a hundred words long, one that’s quite a bit longer.

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Teach To The Future

I’ve started a new series of blog posts on Applied Sentience: “Teach To The Future”.

Through these posts, I cover subjects like teaching people (especially kids) to write for an online audience:

Or teaching people to see through the eyes of other people, in a rigorous and practical way:

I care a lot about education, especially since I’ve just received 17 straight years of the stuff. But I think we spend too much time on some subjects and not enough on… well, the subjects I cover in these posts. I don’t know much about pedagogy, but I try to stick to skills I do know. As always, let me know if you have thoughts on how to develop these ideas further.

Bonus: If you teach children and want help figuring out a curriculum based on any of the subjects or lesson plans I describe, I’m happy to help!

Area Writer Applies To The Onion, Fails

I recently applied for a writing position at The OnionI went in expecting to be rejected, knowing that the website has some of the funniest living writers on staff. And I was, in fact, rejected!

I noticed while I was applying that I couldn’t easily find any other applications online. So I’m posting mine here, with minor edits for typos. If you’d like to work at The Onion, you’ll have to do better than this. (Also, you’ll have to spend more than four hours on your submission. When it comes to finding your dream job, don’t procrastinate.)

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How To Write a Job Posting: One Student’s Opinion (Part II)


Hello! I’m Aaron Gertler, and I’ve spent the last six months looking at hundreds of job postings on Yale University’s career site. Some of them were awesome; many were awful.

In the first part of this post, I examined common mistakes companies make when trying to hire students. This post is much happier: I’ll be looking at the common traits of my favorite job postings, and explaining how companies can use them to improve their hiring process!

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How to Write a Job Posting: One Student’s Opinion

Dear companies,

Are you trying to hire students fresh out of college?

If so, that’s wonderful! We really appreciate it. I’ve applied to a lot of jobs over the past few months, and most companies I spoke to made me feel welcome and appreciated.

However, there are a few strange flaws I see in a lot of job postings. These aren’t just my pet peeves: I’ve also heard a complaints from many other students. And when a student has hundreds of jobs they could be applying for, a good job posting often makes the difference between keeping them on the hook and losing them in the wide sea of capitalism.

To help companies improve their hiring, I’ve written this quick guide to writing job postings for students. Some of this might be relevant to other job postings. Take what you like, leave what you don’t.

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How to Start a College Magazine, Part Three: Building the Publication

This is the third article in a four-part series on starting a college magazine, written by the Chairman of the Yale Record, America’s oldest humor magazine. There’s a lot of information here; pick and choose whatever seems helpful. 

Click here to read the first article, or click here to send me a question.


Hello again, and welcome to the third part of the Guide.

This article tells you how to go from:

“Okay, we have people interested, now what?”


“Omigod look at our first issue hot off the presses/internet, it’s BEAUTIFUL! We are so cool and thoughtful!”

I’ve written this in three parts: The “how to write an issue” checklist, a sample timeline for a monthly magazine, and an extremely long and non-mandatory special feature: “One year in the publishing life of the Yale Record“.

In the final section, I explain what we do during the year, and when. Whether you’re starting a magazine in the summertime or the middle of the school year, you should be able to pick up a similar rhythm.

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How to Start a College Magazine, Part Two: Recruitment and Staffing

Welcome to the second article in a four-part series on starting a college magazine. There’s a lot of information here; pick and choose whatever seems helpful. Click here to read the first article, or click here to send me a question.


Hello again! This time, I’m going to talk about finding people to work with you on your new publication.

If you think you already have enough people to get going, you can skip this article and read the next one. But I’d recommend recruiting even if you have friends working with you. Staffing can be unpredictable: people graduate, people leave school, and people move on. Having extra writers and editors rarely hurts, as long as you can keep your standards high.


How to Recruit Writers

And, of course, all the people who aren’t writers. Every publication’s needs will be different. However, I’ll explain the setup of the Yale Record, since we have a large staff, work in many different styles, and publish a lot of art.

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