What is that citation doing?

  1. Saying “this is not my work!”
  2. Saying “this is the work of [named person or entity]!”
  3. Showing where the author found information or an idea.
  4. Showing other people where to find that information or idea, too.
  5. Showing that someone, anyone, other than the author has previously stated this piece of information or articulated this idea.
  6. Proving that the author can cut and paste from a random website.
  7. Proving that the author can cut and paste from a “suggested citation” widget.
  8. Proving that the author can use citation software.
  9. Demonstrating competency in a weird niche subcultural skill.
  10. Demonstrating competency in using specific kinds of sources.
  11. Demonstrating that the author is willing to jump through certain hoops for a grade.
  12. Illustrating that the author read* particular sources.
  13. Illustrating that the author read* “the right” sources.
  14. Illustrating that the author read† Reviewer 2’s publications.
  15. Claiming membership in an academic field or academic tradition
  16. Claiming expertise for the author.
  17. Claiming association with people of recognized stature in a field.
  18. Performing one or more identities.
  19. Manifesting anxiety.
  20. Hazing.‡
  21. Obfuscating.
  22. Excluding people from in-group status.
  23. Making a joke.
  24. – ∞ a LOT of other functions

* (or skimmed)
† (almost certainly skimmed)
‡ See, e.g., Minn. R. 1550.1760 (1996)

Related readings (by no means the only things I’ve read on this topic, just the ones I can remember right now)(edit: slightly updated and ordered in semi-interestingness, 5/10/19):

Tushnet R. Payment in credit: copyright law and subcultural creativity. Law & Contemp. Probs.. 2007;70:135.
Boyle, James. 2010. The public domain: enclosing the commons of the mind. (Open PDF) New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press.
A good portion of the things Jessica Litman has ever written.
Posner, Richard A. The Little Book of Plagiarism. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007.
Lots of conversations online and IRL with very smart people.
Hyde, L. (2012). Common as air: Revolution, art, and ownership. London: Union Books.
Boon, Marcus. In Praise of Copying. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2013. Print
ZERBY, C. (2007). The Devil’s Details: A History of Footnotes. New York, Touchstone.
Wincor, Richard. From Ritual to Royalties; An Anatomy of Literary Property. New York: Walker, 1962.

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