I edit a journal. I am doing final editing on a paper that’s almost ready to go to print. And I realize that the references haven’t been checked yet.* Too late to ask someone else, so I do it myself.
And a funny thing happened.
The first reference in the body of the paper was the first one in the alphabetical list of references at the end of the paper. No biggie.
But then the second reference in the body was the second in alphabetical order.
I didn’t see the pattern until I was almost done. But here are the authors in order of mention in the paper:
- Allen 
- Bardhan and Walker 
- Chen, Roll and Ross 
- Clark-Neely and Wheelock 
- Levonian 
- Paletta and Scannell 
- Rose 
- Shiers 
And what came after Shiers? Sorry folks; Zou, Miller and Malamud’s  paper was mentioned a few sentences before Zimmerman .
What are the odds? The paper had 10 references. The odds are 1 in 10 that the first paper mentioned would be first alphabetically. After that there are 9 more left, so the odds of the second paper mentioned being second alphabetically are 1 in 9. But, the odds of both of them turning out that was are now 1 in 90. Do the math: the odds of 8 papers appearing in alphabetical order is 1,814,400 to 1.
FWIW: The paper will appear on the website next week.
* For those who aren’t academics, when you publish a paper in a journal, items are referenced in the body of the paper in some sort of shorthand, and a complete references appear at the end of the article. Checking references means making sure everything that’s in the body is also in the back.