Enhancing Equity in Scholarship through Citation
Students are mentored to study within an academic canon. We call them the classics, foundational theorists, tradition. But in doing so, what are we missing? The recycling of common themes is natural and expected. As a result, a relatively small set of researchers hold the key to how we frame and envision knowledge, both old and new. Education has, as a result, created specific rules of engagement that limit exploration and promote the status quo. What role does academic integrity play in expanding new ways of knowing?
Historical rules or theories go mostly unchecked, riddled with unconscious bias. This often continues until a social movement deems the
exclusion of a particular group to be distasteful. The issue of representation persists. Even in disruption, critical analysis often falls victim to its proximity to generally accepted literature.
The citation cipher is never-ending, and often repetitive. With that in mind, where is the opportunity for new voices and perspectives to emerge? Perhaps more importantly, in the shadows of social movements, where are the views of the activists and free thinkers ready to challenge the status quo with models of their own? What are the culturally nuanced practices that create, or at the very least, influence prevailing theory? In an era where terms like inclusion and decolonization permeate academia, what does this mean in citation practice? The politics of citation have omitted and reframed knowledge acquisition, failing to honor the contributions of countless individuals and groups. What does this mean for academic integrity?
In theory, citation should be an equalizing factor. Anyone can learn, and anyone can teach. Instead, we gatekeep, uplifting ways of knowing determined by rules of affiliation: alumni status, mentorship, and popularity, effectively ignoring smaller or uniquely contributions that can shift thinking or retrospection. Disparities in who and how often an author is cited has lasting implications.
Citation (and failing to cite) are political acts. We move discourse around the popular and the resonant. When we fail to mention a source, it is not merely the omission of one scholar’s work. It is the dismissal of the ways an author engages with the subject matter and cites another series of scholars. Exclusion has the potential to separate entire communities from an educational topic. This marginalization threatens trust, collaboration, and can limit future research.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the knowledge mining of marginalized communities. Failing to seek out cultural origins and nuance, ignoring or misrepresenting contributions outside of our understanding of the world runs the risk of creating division and promotes deficit perspectives, and eroding trust instead of knowledge growth. Academic integrity can serve to bridge the gap between competing viewpoints.
When we cite scholarship, we honor the fact that knowledge is fluid enough to flow in many directions. We trust members of our academic community to do the work we request of them, to provide quality reviews, to accept diverse forms of scholarship, and support the proliferation of new ideas and processes that enhance our collective way of thinking. We hold the rules of knowledge acquisition in our hands, and when we uphold the status quo, we make a statement that nuance in academia is an alternative perspective.
There are small, everyday ways that the scholarly community dismisses research. Have you reconsidered citing a relevant source based on the “cited by” number in google scholar? How often do you seek an alternative source because finding APA format for a non-traditional source seems overwhelming or confusing? How often are we distracted, trading in nuance for popularity? Are the elements of academic rigor defined by an individual manuscript, or by a collective embrace or rejection of the work? Whose perspectives are missing from your paper or syllabus, and why?
This piece is not written to dismiss rigorous and well-cited work, but to consider uplifting the addition of alternative accessible perspectives. By failing to name knowledge as more than the replication of accepted theory, we ignore the humanity of scholars not formally tied to academia. We dismiss practitioners, cultural leaders, and storytellers. Beyond being academically dishonest, this practice has unique implications for marginalized groups. To ignore the growth, innovation, and development that comes from persevering through trauma is to ignore a part of the human condition.
Worldwide the promotion of individual narratives at the expense of others is enough to shift public perception and distort reality. There is a responsibility of acknowledging a diverse truth. We should consider why we avoid acknowledging historical nuance, why we may fail to engage more globally, why we may dismiss or downplay culturally relevant theory and practice, and why centering diverse concepts are labeled affinities rather than actualities.
For scholars, practitioners, and activists promoting work, it is evident that these contributions can universally inform academics and society. It is up to academia to act with integrity to reward, cite, and demand more.