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Michigan State University

Citation for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: FAQs

Helping students and faculty incorporate more diversity, equity, and inclusion into their research using Libraries resources


You have questions, we have answers! Check out the Frequently Asked Questions below. Still have questions? Contact Jodi Coalter, Life Sciences Librarian, at to discuss!

Shouldn't you cite good research and not base citations on race or gender?

  • Content should always be your number one consideration, but because an institutional bias exists in citation practice, citing based on author identity is important to ensure that people are being cited fairly. Dig deeply into the literature to diversify your citations. Don't just engage with the most highly cited articles; instead, engage with the literature by exploring more of published research. This can help you address your own explicit and implicit biases, but also helps correct a system that has systematically disregarded non-white and non-male voices for centuries.

Sure, inequities exist in citations, but won't we cause an imbalance against white male scholars if we just cite women and BIPOC scholars?

  • Because there are so few women and people of color in certain fields, it will take many generations for the balance to shift in the other direction. We have a lot of catching up to do to create an equitable academic environment.

Isn't it problematic to infer the gender or race of people?

  • Since race is a social construct and is a visual determination, inferring people's race by sight is not problematic. Gender is a bit more difficult and should be approached with caution. Occasionally, determinations on gender can be made based on probability that a person with one name identifies with a specific gender. However, try to go the extra mile to determine how they identify themselves. Check out a researcher's scholarly profile in Google Scholar, Research Gate, or on social media

I live outside of the United States. Should I still practice citation justice?

  • Yes! It's likely that many countries suffer from different types of injustice, including racial discrimination that hasn't been thoroughly discussed yet. It's also likely that racial discrimination is broadly distributed due to historical colonialism and modern day imperialism and globalization. Discuss these broader social issues with fellow researchers and determine what your own practice should look like.

Isn't the broader problem that citation counts themselves are not a good way of assessing the quality of research? Shouldn't we address that and this won't matter?

  • While citation counts themselves are indeed poor indicators of the quality of research (and, by extension, the researcher), these types of citation metrics are being used in evaluations right now. Encouraging broader citation practice ensures a more equitable process now, as we simultaneously work to find better assessment tools.
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