METM18 presentation 

Why is citing a complex issue and how can editors help?

Nigel Harwood, Sheffield, UK

Citation is an important skill for academic writers to acquire. Failure to cite appropriately may count against students submitting writing for assessment on their degree programmes and authors seeking to publish their work in international journals. Lecturers grading students’ writing and peer reviewers evaluating journal manuscripts may see inappropriate citation practices as evidence that writers lack the requisite disciplinary knowledge or support for their claims (Harwood & Petric 2013; 2017; under review). Unfortunately there is evidence that the acquisition of this skill can be slow and problematic (Cumming et al, 2016), and it is therefore likely that editors will encounter citation-related issues in their clients’ manuscripts.
In this talk, I look at a range of research on citation from the disciplines of applied linguistics and information science and what it tells us about the different aspects of citation writers need to master. I include research of my own based on textual analysis and interviews with student writers and published authors about their citing practices. I include work on the mechanics and formatting of citation (e.g., the distinction between integral and non-integral forms of citation; and of author-date and footnote/endnote referencing styles). But citing is not merely a matter of mechanics; it can also help writers accomplish various pragmatic effects (Brooks, 1986; Harwood, 2009, 2010; Small, 1982; White, 2004). In addition to citations serving as a means of support for the argument of the citing author, citations can for example confer credit to another person’s research, direct readers to useful sources, summarise other scholars’ positions or findings, single out a source for the citing author to build upon or criticise, or advertise the citing author’s own work via self-citation.
Once the complexity of the mechanics and pragmatics of citing is appreciated, the editor must consider how best to raise writers’ awareness of this complexity, and I describe several pedagogic techniques for editors to consider, including providing writers with a simplified functional citation taxonomy to be used to analyse citation practices in their own field. 

About the presenter

Nigel Harwood is a reader in applied linguistics at the University of Sheffield. He has previously published three co-authored journal articles reporting findings of an interview-based study of the profiles, practices and beliefs of proofreaders who work on student writing in the UK. He has also published research on English for academic purposes and on teachers’ use of EFL and EAP textbooks, and his most recent monograph focuses on students' experiences of dissertation supervision. He is co-editor of the journal English for Specific Purposes (Elsevier).


Brooks, T. A. (1986). Evidence of complex citer motivations. Journal of the American Society for Information Science 37: 34-36.
Cumming, A. et al. (2016). Students' writing from sources for academic purposes: A synthesis of recent research. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 23: 47-58.
Harwood, N. & Petric, B. (2017). Experiencing Master’s Supervision: Perspectives of International Students and their Supervisors. Abingdon: Routledge.
Harwood, N. (2009). An interview-based study of the functions of citations in academic writing across two disciplines. Journal of Pragmatics 41: 497-518.
Harwood, N. (2010). Research-based materials to demystify academic citation for postgraduates. In N. Harwood (ed.). English Language Teaching Materials: Theory & Practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 301-321.
Petric, B. & Harwood, N. (2013). Task requirements, task representation, and citation functions: an interview-based study of the citing behaviour of a successful L2 student writer. Journal of English for Academic Purposes 12: 110-124.
Petric, B. & Harwood, N. (under review). Tracing citing practices during a master’s programme: a case of uneven development.
Small, H. (1982). Citation context analysis. In B. Dervin & M. J. Voight (eds.). Progress in Communication Sciences, Vol. III. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, pp. 287-310.
White, H. D. (2004). Citation analysis and discourse analysis revisited. Applied Linguistics 25: 89-116.