What do researchers cite in their Literature Review sections? An exploratory study of citations in Information Systems research articles


Citation content, literature reviews, move analysis, Information Systems, re-contextualization

How to Cite

Chan, H. T., & Kwan , S. C. (2022). What do researchers cite in their Literature Review sections? An exploratory study of citations in Information Systems research articles . Ibérica, (44), 49–74. https://doi.org/10.17398/2340-2784.44.49


The Literature Review (LR) section is an integral part of a research article (RA) where the author needs to develop a theoretical groundwork to anchor his/her own study. However, the part-genre always eludes novice writers, which involves deciding what to cite from relevant past literature and what goals the cited knowledge serves therein. Insights are thus necessary into how experienced/expert writers address such issues. Unfortunately, there has been a dearth of research into this topic, with existing work focusing mainly on the formal features and generic functions of source use. Motivated by the missing gap and the pedagogical need and grounded in Swales’s (1990) CARS model and Kwan and Chan’s (2014) semantic typology of citations, the present study is an attempt to examine the semantic attributes of source ideas that get cited in different parts of the LR sections of Information Systems RAs following a behavioral science research (BSR) paradigm. Findings reveal that distinct types of source ideas are cited, which are associated with the specific move-steps of the LR sections and the BSR paradigm. A comparison of some of the cited ideas with the original ideas from the source texts also demonstrates that the latter have been re-contextualized to varying degrees to advance the arguments that the writers make in their LRs. Taken together, the study’s outcomes suggest that using a move-specific approach to citations can yield useful insights into source use in LRs. Implications for citation teaching and future citation research will be drawn.



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