Thursday, July 25, 2013

My 2,500th post! and - why do people cite?

We had a good discussion yesterday in the #ilread information literacy blog-post journal club, on Barbara Fister's paper ( You can have a read through the discussion at and you can still add to it, too (though as we switched moderation on again, there will be a slight delay before your comment appears).
One of the discussion points was citation - do we need to be so obsessive about students citing things? do we have to be so picky about citation styles? One thing I mentioned in a final comment was a study that my colleague Peter Willett did about why people cite. He took a journal issue that several people in the Information School had contributed to: authors had to say why they had cited items, then we read other people's articles and said why we thought they they had cited them (by the way, the readers' perceptions didn't match the authors' very well!) There have been a number of studies on citation behaviour, and Peter was using a list of reasons from a previous study.
I mention this, as I think that asking students to look at articles and try and work out why sources have been cited by the authors is one way to get students to think about why they are using other people's work in their own work. I did one exercise last year with students which included examining in more detail what was cited in an article and why it was being used, and I think I will do a bit more this coming year. Peter gives the list of reasons at the end of his article (taken from Harwood, 2009), and the main headings are: Signposting; Supporting (justifying your work or your arguments); (giving) Credit (to previous work); Position (establishing your position in relation to others); Engaging (with previous work e.g. criticising it); Building (on previous work); Tying (tying in your work with others in terms of research methods etc.); Future (flagging up your future research path), Competence (i.e. proving your competence in the subject by citing authoritative works) and of course “other”.

- Willett, P. (2013) "Readers' perceptions of authors' citation behaviour." Journal of Documentation, 69 (1), 145 - 156.

- Harwood, N. (2009) “An interview study of the functions of citations in academic writing across two disciplines”, Journal of Pragmatics, 41 (3), 497-518. nb I am citing this particular article without having read it ;-)

And this is my 2,500th post - blogging here since 2005 ....
Photo by Sheila Webber: Tiles, Leighton House, London, July 2013

1 comment:

Christine Irving said...

Congratulations Sheila on reaching your 2,500th post. I've certainly enjoyed and learnt such a lot from your blog postings. Keep up the good work.


Christine Irving