Jennifer L. Greer
Julia S. Austin
UAB Graduate School

Why We Cite

For scholars, it’s more than defensive driving


Citations are made for many different reasons. Read the scholarly arguments below for sourcing and citing prior research. Discuss them, and rank the top 2 in order of importance for your field. Be prepared to explain why you think the way you do. Note: This activity was adapted from Academic Writing for Graduate Students (Swales & Feak, 2004)

    1. “Citations are used to recognize and acknowledge the intellectual property rights of authors. They are a matter of ethics and a defense against plagiarism” (Swales & Feak, 2004, p. 251).

    2. Research writing is a “conversational practice” . . . “The researcher discovers or invents a claim, researches that claim, sees what others have said, and writes inclusively.” (Yancey, 2008, p. 160-168).

    3. “We make citations because we think our colleagues think they are important and we want to show that we know that. These works ‘should’ have a scholarly impact on us, whether or not they actually did” (Bavelas, 1978, p.  160).

    4. Citations signal professional competence.  “The ways writers present their topics, signal their allegiances, and stake their claims represent careful negotiations with, and  considerations of, their colleagues so their writing displays a professional competence . . .” (Hyland, 2009, p. 88-89).

    5. “Citations are used to create research space for the citing author. By describing what has been done, citations point the way to what has not been done, and so prepare a space for new research” (Swales, 2004, p. 252).


    Bavelas, J. B. (1978). The social psychology of citations. Canadian Psychological Review, 19, 158-163.

    Hyland, K. (2009). English for professional academic purposes: Writing for scholarly publication.
              In Diane Belcher (Ed.), English for specific purposes in theory and practice. Ann Arbor,
              MI: University of Michigan Press.

    Swales, J.M., & Feak, C. B. (2004). Academic Writing for Graduate Students. Ann Arbor, MI: University of           Michigan Press.

    Yancey, K. B. (2008). Beyond plagiarism. In Rebecca Moore Howard and Amy E. Robillard   (Eds),
              Pluralizing plagiarism: Identities, contexts, pedagogies
    (pp.158-170). Portsmouth, NH:
              Boynton Cook Publishers, Inc.