Points of reference: Changing patterns of academic citation

Ken Hyland, Feng (Kevin) Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


In this article we explore the ways in which academic citation practices have changed over the past 50 years. Based on the analysis of a corpus of 2.2 million words from the same leading journals in four disciplines in 1965, 1985, and 2015, we document a substantial rise in citations over the period, particularly in applied linguistics and sociology. This is partly because there is now so much more research to report and that recognizing previous work is much easier as a result of electronic access and hyperlinks to sources. But citation is also increasingly required as a means of appropriately embedding research more securely in disciplinary understandings. Our results also show a fall in the use of reporting structures, a growing preference for non-integral forms, for research verbs, for the present tense, and for non-evaluative structures when reporting others’ research. While patterns differ by discipline, there is a general trend towards writers suppressing human agency in knowledge-making and emphasizing the reported studies rather than those who conducted them to show how earlier research supports their own.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64–85
Number of pages22
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number1
Early online date31 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

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