Are academic citation practices political?

Research team uses network analysis to illustrate impact of citation practices on Black women; earns ASEE best paper award

By Sarah D'Iorio and Jane Stoyle Welch

Release Date: March 2, 2022

Kristen Moore head shot.

Kristen Moore

“Black women’s knowledge has historically been suppressed within the academy, so although the integration of Black women’s theories are promising, an ethic of care surrounding how the integration occurs is warranted. ”
Kristen Moore, associate professor of engineering education
University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

BUFFALO, N.Y. – A study that explores the impact of citation practices in engineering education research on scholars of color earned the Best Overall Diversity Paper Award from the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE).

According to the paper’s lead author, Kristen Moore, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Education at the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the research team used the term “intersectionality” as an example of how citation practices can be political.

Intersectionality refers to an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. Because the term intersectionality was established and elaborated upon by Black women and other women of color, Moore explains, the politics of citation surrounding the term deserves careful consideration.

“By politics of citation, we refer both to the political nature of who we cite and also how we cite the knowledge of those who have traditionally been marginalized by academic and engineering practices,” Moore says. “Black women’s knowledge has historically been suppressed within the academy, so although the integration of Black women’s theories are promising, an ethic of care surrounding how the integration occurs is warranted.”

The authors reviewed 135 publications in engineering education that discussed intersectionality. However, they found that most of them did not cite the women of color who founded and developed the concept. According to the authors, citation practices have the potential to suppress or amplify scholars who have been marginalized — influencing career milestones like tenure and promotions.

“In drawing attention to the politics of citation, this paper also makes a methodological argument: that network analysis is a useful quantitative tool for understanding the politics and patterns of citation,” Moore says. “We interrogate one particular topic, intersectionality, to understand the way the field has used the term, the way it has gathered around particular key texts, and the citational tendencies that support the field’s understanding of intersectionality. Doing so provides a blueprint for how network analyses can support literature reviews and the tracing of emergent themes and topics.”

Entitled “The Politics of Citation Practices in Engineering Education: A Citation Analysis of Intersectionality,” the paper first earned Best Diversity Paper in the ASEE Educational Research and Methods Division. Moore and her co-authors — Walter R. Hargrove (University at Buffalo), Nathan R. Johnson (University of South Florida) and Fernando Sánchez (University of St. Thomas) — presented their work last year among finalists from the other six divisions of ASEE. The paper was then selected as the Best Overall Diversity Paper, which recognizes the best diversity-focused paper submitted from all divisions to the ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition that year.

Moore and her co-authors will be formally recognized for this achievement at the 2022 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition in June.

An engineering education faculty member at UB since 2018, Moore also holds a faculty appointment in the Department of English. Her research widely focuses on strategies for intervening in mundane injustices, particularly within public-facing technical communication and equity and inclusion efforts in the academy. She currently serves as the chair for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee.

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