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Evaluating Sources: ACT UP: Citation Politics

POSITIONALITY MATTERS

What and who you chose to cite is a reflection of your positionalities.*

You come to research as you and bring with you your experiences, opinions, access to information, specific skill sets, etc.

These positionalities* effect who you include in your research and who you exclude. Who YOU consider an authority on the subject matters.

Citation selecting is not passive. We make a conscious decision who to include and who to exclude in our research.

We need to discuss our intentions and why we chose to cite certain resources over others. It holds us accountable for the research we do and the creations we produce.

*'Positionality is the notion that personal values, views, and location in time and space influence how one understands the world. In this context, gender, race, class, and other aspects of identities are indicators of social and spatial positions and are not fixed, given qualities. Positions act on the knowledge a person has about things, both material and abstract. Encyclopedia of Geography (p2258)

CITED BY NUMBER

Generally we say, the higher the cited by number is, the more impactful the research is. It means that, in this case, over 3300 articles referenced this particular paper. Considering it was published in 1998, that's a good amount of cited bys as it has had time to be read and thoroughly studied.

But what if I told you that this article was retracted in 2010 for fraudulent research? And that even though it was retracted, it has already been cited over 3300 times and is now part of public discourse. That this particular scholarly article was based on shoddy research and literally started the anti-vax movement?

Who you cite matters! We have a responsibility to thoroughly evaluate our sources.

CITATION POLITICS

Citation politics is about reproducing sameness. If we are always citing white, male authors, we are forever drawing from a very limited set of experiences.

 

Women are cited less on average than research authored by men, but if a woman co-authors with a man, the paper has a higher chance of being cited.

 

People of color and other marginalized folx are less cited than their white colleagues even if they have more experience and authority than white researchers.

 

Well cited scholars have authority because they are well cited. But well cited does not mean quality especially at the expense of those less cited.

BREAKING THE CITATION CYCLE

Practice citation counting: literally count how many women, poc, and other marginalized folx are included in your references. Count how many nontraditional sources you cited. Google the authors to see who they are if you need to. Don't make assumptions about gender. Do your research.  

Push against the narrow definition of academic scholarship that is exclusive, misogynistic and racist. Just because someone's work has not been heavily cited does not mean it does not have value. Strive to towards citation politics that are feminist and anti-racist.

There are different kinds of authority. Consider the context in which you are writing and determine what kind of expert you need? For example when might a government site not be as reliable as a personal narrative?

There are more contributors to research than just the author(s). Take a critical look at the methodology section to see who contributed and who didn't.