Questions to consider when planning a party/referencing and navigating citational politics

As alluded to in previous blog posts and on twitter recently, I’ve been introducing citational politics into classes this year and, in the spirit of the GLAM blog club theme Questions, I thought I would share some questions I have been encouraging students to ask when engaging with citation to get them to think about who and why they are referencing not just how to reference.

In the most recent iteration of the class, the lecturer and I were inspired by the end of semester and one of the author of one of texts students were studying who claims to write books like she is hosting a party to host a referencing party in the final week of semester on narrative endings and afterlives, and referencing & citation as a party.


To get the party started, I mentioned the research journey that the footnotes and resources list in Confessions of the Fox has taken me on all year and the way it has helped me stay connected to the narrative. As mentioned earlier this month, It inspired me to research collective narratives, storytelling, biographies, memoirs and memory making, collective research, reading and writing practices, counternarrative, and delve back into postcolonial, critical race, queer and gender theories. It made me think and read about scholarly reading and writing as a collective exercise – or very nerdy party even! It was very relevant to the themes of the subject and Footnotes were used as a narrative device, so it was a particularly apt place to begin.





I came across the following Burkean parlour metaphor for scholarly conversation in Wallis’ (2016) “Mapping Power and Privilege in Scholarly Conversations” and thought I would also use it might also set the scene for a scholarly party, ask students how they would feel if they were attending a party like this, and provide some party tricks and questions to ask for unlocking, contributing to and navigating the conversation:

“Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.”

Burke, K, 1974, The philosophy of literary form: studies in symbolic action, 3rd ed., University of California Press, Berkeley.

The scholarly party tricks included:

  • —Subject lecture notes, prescribed text, and weekly readings – the perfect starting point or gateway to unlocking the conversation
  • —Footnotes, Bibliographies and Reference lists from the prescribed text and weekly readings to find out who is being cited – we noticed a few (popular!) people were cited multiple times (special guests that lecturers probably expect you to invite to the party perhaps!)
  • —Forward citation chaining using Google Scholar to find more recent references, bring the research and analysis into the present, and begin to get an idea of how significant a source is in the field in terms of theoretical discussion, methodology and/or subject matter/specific area of study, and begin to get an idea of who is citing this work and who is not (white men, women, People of Colour, First Nations people and so on)
  • —Scholarly clubs (or discipline specific databases) for finding peer reviewed journal articles with everyone’s favourite Boolean operators as tour guides. I also generally encourage students from all disciplines to branch out and explore Gender, Sexuality and Diversity Studies databases if they need to find more diverse perspectives.
  • The university’s Academic Referencing Tool

As every party has politics, I introduced some questions for students to ask in order to navigate these politics and include more diverse voices.

The questions were adapted from Netolicky (2018)’s questions:

“Previously I considered things like how recent my references were, or what kinds of texts they covered. I now ask some different questions of my reference list:

  • How does this list situate my work in the field? With what kind of scholarship am I aligning my work?
  • From what nations, cultures and classes do my references come? To what extent do they represent Euro- or Anglo- centric ways of knowing and being?
  • What is the gender mix of my reference list?
  • Whose voices are silent? Whose scholarship have I ignored or excluded?”

Netolicky, DM 2018, ‘Reference lists as sites of diversity? Citations matter’, the édu flâneuse, blog post, 11 July, viewed 20 October 2019, <;.

Ultimately, I hoped they would ask “Are there people who should be invited into the conversation as they get talked/written about quite a lot but are not actually included in the conversation enough?” and then listen to/read and invite them.

Sometimes I worry that some academics will mark students down if they don’t engage with and cite the popular people/people who always get cited and cite less well established, more marginalised folks, so it can be a bit tricky to navigate and has taken a while for me to be confident enough to so strongly question (and encourage others to question) who is and who is not getting cited. Having said that I worry about this, all of the academics I’ve spoken to about introducing citational politics into classes have responded pretty well, so perhaps the fear is unfounded.

I also loved this idea and thread from @kellymce and encouraged the lecturer and tutors to think about trying it in tutorials, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to be part of them. I look forward to giving it ago in 2020 and think using emoji would have been very popular with one of the recommended readings for the subject: Uses of Literature by Rita Felski.


I was discussing it with colleagues afterwards and we thought accidental plagiarism could be referred to as an example of party gatecrashers and getting the formatting/punctuation/italics correct could be cleaning up at the end of a party.

I also loved James Burford’s post about the literature review workshops or parties he organises which suggested some more questions to consider (and reminded me that I love finding out different strategies people use to manage references in classes):

“In our workshop, researchers shared the different systems that they use to store their literatures. Some people prefer to work with paper copies of journal articles that they can annotate and scribble over. These paper copies may be stored in categorised boxes or folders. Others use an Excel table and arrange their literature by themes and categories. Some researchers in our workshop have piles of paper that they don’t know what to do with. Many researchers are thinking about and also re-thinking their current system of managing information.

One of the things I always do is to encourage researchers to talk to each other not only about the ‘what’ of the literature review, but also the ‘how’. I encourage researchers to talk to their supervisors, too. It can be really interesting to ask our mentors about what happens behind the scenes with their own literature synthesising practice. How do they store notes? How have they arranged literature reviews in the past? What successful models have they seen or examined? When do they draw the line and say ‘enough is enough’? Getting curious about the ‘how’ of literature reviews is often a good first step to figuring out what to do next.”

I hope we can host a citation party together some time!

The first person I remember who really got me thinking about why and who we reference (and going beyond how we reference) was my former boss, Leesa Wheelahan, a fabulous feminist public intellectual. It was mostly through Jean Brick’s  Academic culture: A student’s guide to studying at university which she introduced to students in a graduate certificate in tertiary teaching and hoped they would pass onto their students.

Thomas Peach and Clare McCluskey-Dean recently launched I AM plify -a brilliant sounding collection development project to amplify marginalised voices and increase diversity in information sources available in the library and I feel like I might build something like this into future party planning.

One of my favourite articles on referencing is “How do you wish to be cited? Citation practices and a scholarly community of care in trans studies research articles” by K Thieme & MAS Saunders and I feel these reflections and questions are a good note to end on:

“We suggested that not only do trans studies scholars voice unique concerns related to gender and citation, they also reflect the practices of a community of care in their choices of citation. Part of these practices is to ensure that trans scholars and trans experience are cited over cisgender scholars and cisgender experience. In addition, these practices also include careful consideration of how exactly to characterize scholars who are trans, and how to vary that characterization for different audiences. In this way trans studies, as a multi-disciplinary, transnational, emerging field, seems to be developing its own community norms when it comes to relating new claims to preceding work. We wonder, though, do the norms and concerns that are evident in the above public statements also manifest themselves on the surface level of citation in the research article? Can practices of care—and the complex navigation between erasure and outing—be seen in the language used when trans scholars cite each other? If so, or if not, what lessons do these practices of citation hold for questions of gender and research writing more generally?”

Would you come to this party? Do you have any other idea for planning a citation party and/or questions to ask? Perhaps you want to apply it to apply these questions to collection development in a similar way to Thomas and Clare have done? Get in touch!

Bibliography: or people who’ve helped me plan this party so far

(there are some familiar names who I cite quite a lot on this blog)

Ahmed, S 2017, Living a Feminist Life, Duke University Press, North Carolina.

Ahmed, S 2013, Making Feminist Points, Feminist Killjoys, 11 September, viewed 20 October 2019, <;.

Brick, J 2016, Academic culture: A student’s guide to studying at university, Macmillan Education Australia, South Yarra.

Burford, J 2019, ‘What is a literature review? Imaginings and re-imaginings’, The RED Alert, October 3, viewed October 20 2019, <;.

Burke, K, 1974, The philosophy of literary form: studies in symbolic action, 3rd ed., University of California Press, Berkeley.

Griffiths, T 2009, ‘History and the Creative Imagination’, History Australia, vol.6, no.3, pp.74.1-74.16.

@kellymce 2019, I asked my students to invent…, Twitter, 3 October, viewed 20 October 2019, <;.

Hartman, SV 1997, Scenes of subjection: terror, slavery, and self-making in nineteenth-century America, Oxford University Press, New York.

McCluskey-Dean, Clare 2018, ‘Year 2 BA(Hons) Primary Education – evaluating and referencing sources’, Information in the curriculum, May 9, viewed 20 October 2019, <;.

McCluskey-Dean, Clare 2018, ‘How reading list design is influenced by power structures – input for level 6 Participation and Voice module’, Information in the curriculum, November 8, viewed 20 October 2019, <;.

McGregor, H 2019, ‘Episode 3.21 Citing Your Sources’, Secret Feminist Agenda, podcast,
15 March, viewed 20 October 2019, <;.

Nelson, M 2017, ‘Maggie Nelson Writes Books Like She’s Hosting a Party’, Interview by Lange, M for The Cut, 31 March, viewed 20 October 2019, <;.

Netolicky, DM 2018, ‘Reference lists as sites of diversity? Citations matter’, the édu flâneuse, blog post, 11 July, viewed 20 October 2019, <;.

Rosenberg, J 2018, Confessions of the Fox, Atlantic Books, London.

Thieme, K & Saunders, MAS 2018, ‘How do you wish to be cited? Citation practices and a scholarly community of care in trans studies research articles’, Journal of English for Academic Purposes, vol.32, pp.80-90.

Wallis, Lauren 2016, “Mapping Power and Privilege in Scholarly Conversations” in Critical Pedagogy Handbook, vol. 2. ACRL: Chicago, IL.

Zahora, T & Yazbeck, B 2018, “”Is Plagiarism a learned sin?” Textuality, meaning-making and the rules of the academic game”, in AW Ata, LT Tran & I Liyanage (Eds.), Educational Reciprocity and Adaptivity: International students and stakeholders, UK, Routledge.

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