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  • Writer's pictureCana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq

The A.R.T. of Ethical Citation Practices in Literature Reviews

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

As a scholar whose dissertation research centers on ethical citation practices -- especially as it relates to marginalized scholars and knowledges -- I get asked to consider, comment, and teach about citation. I never thought I would become an "expert" on citation, but here I am! (Funny how those things happen.)

In February 2020, I was a guest lecturer in Dr. Rebecca Walton's graduate seminar on empirical research practices at Utah State University. In the mini-lecture, I presented the three main functions of citations occurring in literature reviews: acclimate, react, and turn.

Or, as I my nerdiness compels me to say, the ART of lit review citation. Here's a brief overview of this important practice:


Get reader up to speed on state of conversation in the field about topic:

  • Show how near or far the field has already come to answering your research questions (which may have been the subject of years of discussion by scholars and researchers).

  • Help provide a context in which to locate your project. Show the existence of a scholarly or creative conversation in which you are about to participate.

  • Provide evidence that the subject is important enough to your field to have generated discussion.


Engage with ideas or arguments (critique, proof, extension, definition):

  • Establish your authority to enter the conversation, showing that you are up to speed with the discussion and would be a credible contributor to the conversation.

  • Shape the conversation, giving your own reading of what has been written so far about the topic.

  • While it might be tempting to poke holes in others' arguments, consider how these "holes" might be framed as "opportunities."


Direct reader towards your argument; get them to anticipate the gap that you’re going to fill; build some hype!:

  • Describe the exigence of your project. What call are you answering?

  • Consider how other fields have worked on similar problems. What nuance does our field's perspective bring?

  • Prepare the "nest" for your "egg." What essentials are needed to make your egg viable?

Remember that your literature review is a political document, it is not neutral. Consider who you are citing in your literature review: are these the scholars you want to support? How might you incorporate the work of emerging scholars or multiply marginalized and underrepresented scholars in your work?

If you're wondering who the self-identified multiply marginalized and underrepresented scholars in tech comm and other related fields are, check out my listing of MMU scholars and my MMU scholar bibliography. You can also check out Dr. Cruz Medina's NCTE CCCC Latinx Caucus bibliography and Andrew Hollinger's Alternative Texts and Critical Citations for Anti-Racist Pedagogie bibliography.

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