"Inclusive citation" describes an approach to citing the intellectual and creative work of individuals and groups with a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Inclusive citation works to counteract dominant power structures that have historically privileged certain groups while disadvantaging others. The tips in this guide will help you find a wider diversity of voices and perspectives when searching for sources on a specific topic. Drawing on that diversity in intentional and purposeful ways can further enrich your own thinking and the larger conversations about the topic with which you're engaged.
Citations and social (in)equity
Power inequities are often reflected in who is and is not included in citations (for example, research shows that men are much more frequently cited in social science scholarship than are women and that Black women are also greatly underrepresented in citation practices in anthropology. (The problem extends far beyond these areas of study and is far more pervasive than just these two studies illustrate.)
Because academic environments mirror many of the inequities that structure society in general, it is unsurprising that citations reflect these systems of privilege and disadvantage, but it is also unacceptable.
The video below further explores how citations often reflect and reinforce larger systems of power and privilege, and how inclusive citation practices can foster richer inquiry and scholarship.
Video: Citing Multiply Marginalized and Underrepresented (MMU) Scholars (USU Libraries)
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This resource was adapted by Andrea Baer, with use of content from USU Libraries' MMU Scholarship guide and TU Dublin Library Services' "Building Multi-Stories: A Guide to Inclusive Referencing" resource. All guides have Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licenses. Many thanks to those guides' creators for permission to reuse their content.
Look at who you are representing and reading. If you notice you are missing diverse representation of scholars or perspectives, use inclusive citation practice to seek out more sources. As you do this, keep these tips in mind:
As you develop strategies for finding sources, consider the following questions:
As you review your citations, consider the authors you used in your research. Do you know what their relationship to the topic is? Does the collection of authors represent a range of voices and perspectives that are relevant to the topic? Reflecting on this might include considering:
Finally, talk with your professors or subject librarian about how they diversify their reading and reference lists and who they think are exciting new voices in the field.
Most of us – at least initially – search for, interpret and use information in a way that confirms our own beliefs. This is known as confirmation bias. Its effect is strongest when the researcher has an emotional attachment to the subject.
Genuine research and learning involve:
Tips for acknowledging your perspective and finding new perspectives on your topic:
Awareness of your own biases and perspectives can strengthen your ability to critically evaluate sources and arguments. Below are some practical strategies.
Investigate your beliefs, assumptions, and emotions.
Identify both facts and perspectives on the topic.
Both acknowledging your own biases and finding and using resources from different voices and communities can be challenging, but doing these things will bring your new insights and perspectives and make your research more meaningful and interesting. The news reporters in the video below illustrate practical ways that they engage in this process.
Video: "How Journalists Minimize Bias" (from Facing Ourselves and History)
These can be helpful tools, and at the same time they are imperfect. Citation audit tools may give you some sense of the ethnic, racial, and gender diversity of your references, but are not entirely accurate and cannot account for many aspects of diversity such as gender, sexual identity, and disability. The most meaningful way to audit your citations is to expand where and how you encounter work on your research area, and to engage with the substance of what others are saying about your topic.