Addressing the Citation Frenzy in Higher Ed

Sarah Bond pointed this essay out.  You should read it.

While obsessively monitoring the response to our articles, I not infrequently see comments of this type: “Surprising that she didn’t cite _____.” Or “No reference to _____?” Or even “Should have cited _____.”

Everybody is, of course, entitled to come to their own conclusion about the question I posed in the title of this editorial. Here’s mine: 9 times out of 10, I think this particular critique is misguided and elitist. It is a kind of objection that is poorly suited to most internet-native writing and seems designed to make writers paranoid and overly cautious.

Criticizing writers for not citing specific articles or scholars forces them to participate in a form of ritualized homage designed to create an extremely high bar before they are permitted to write within the discipline. That’s fine in certain contexts — for example, the dissertation, the entire purpose of which is to show that you can participate responsibly in a scholarly conversation. I would never dispute that in a dissertation, PhD students absolutely should — and usually do — err on the side of over-citation. (I don’t like to brag, but in the reader reports for my dissertation one of my advisers effusively praised my bibliography as “up to date and not monolingual.”).

Yes, read the whole.  For my part I think we’re stifling thought when we act as though every thought must be derivative.   Think for yourself; prove your case with proper argument; and then, and only then, cite supporting evidence.  Otherwise your research is just parroting.