An interview-based study of the functions of citations in academic writing across two disciplines
This paper is an emic, interview-based study of computer scientists’ and sociologists’ accounts of the functions of citations in their writing. Twelve informants took part in the research, commenting upon their citations in one of their own articles. Informants were not provided with functional checklists, and were free to ascribe as many functions to each citation as they wished. Eleven citation functions are identified and described, and evidence of inter- and intra-disciplinary similarities and differences is provided. While the computer scientists used citations to direct their audience to further reading more often, the sociologists’ texts featured more cases of critical citations. The type of paper informants were writing (e.g. theoretical/empirical), the anticipated audience, and the publication outlet resulted in intra-disciplinary differences. Over half of the citations in both fields were said to have more than one function. The insights and implications of the study are discussed.