What Citation Is…

While reading Christopher Blackwell and Thomas R. Martin’s article Technology, Collaboration, and Undergraduate Research in preparation for Rebecca Frost-Davis and Kathryn Tomasek’s Bootcamp at THATCamp LAC, I came across the following claims: “citation is not a pre-digital anti-plagiarism technology, or at least it should not be in a wholesome intellectual environment. Citation is a pre-digital equivalent to the hyperlink, a way of continuing an ongoing conversation in print, a pathway back from the author’s current words, to previous comments on the topic at hand.”

I wish I could broadcast this idea into the minds of all my colleagues. As Director of Writing-Across-the-Curriculum at St. Norbert College, I deal quite a bit—in workshops, in private meetings with professors, and in the Writing Center—with concerns about citation. These concerns nearly always circle back, not to why we cite, but to the horrors of not citing properly. Folks want to talk about how we can catch plagiarists, rather than how we can train scholars. In other words, the conversations are usually punitive, and rarely pedagogical. I know this is a constant struggle for writing program directors, but the way Blackwell and Martin frame the issue seems to me perfect. I plan to use this quote liberally in future workshops and consultations.

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