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DRAFT 1 Peer Review, Citation Practices, and Finding Scholarship Draft2

The methods that scholars use to write, evaluate, and circulate their work are all systems that should be understood as not "neutral" methods.

Scholar Representation by Race

Scholar Representation by Race

This tally acknowledges the white supremacy in this field: the numbers indicate the racial representation of the books listed in this libguide.

Black Scholars: 7     Indigenous Scholars:  1     Other POC Scholars: 2    White Scholars: 6

You will find this on many of our LibGuides, as a system to keep us accountable in looking at the racial diversity of the sources we provide. 

"Citations are political."

Peer review is a system to evaluate scholarship and its credibility for publication: a group of peers review the quality and nature of the work by not just the thesis, but also the voice, tone, format, and citations. This method of assessing scholarship are inherently biased because of the systems that scholars work in. Though many tend to think of higher education as a system of meritocracy, many factors, including race and class, constitute the creation of ‘the best scholarship.’ Often described as “external validation,” peer review determines the value of scholarship outside of the scholar’s immediate networks. Citation practices, the methods of who has been referenced in scholarship, are important in peer reviews because citations are how scholars point out how their work builds upon those who have come before.


Though such assessment has the guise of being objective, the idea of an objective standpoint is impossible because standards are so varied not only depending on discipline, but institution, individuals, and publication systems. It is important to remember this subjectivity, especially in regard to racial bias in these systems; because of the criteria that the scholarship is determine by, peer review often has a pattern of silencing voices that are already in the minority. 


Because scholars find scholarship, and hence their references, in databases, its important to be aware how algorithms can also be biased. Moreover, the language within databases can carry on systems of oppression. As a start, Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble has proven time and time again how “neutral” technology is actually not neutral at all - Google (and hence also Google Scholar) is a capitalistic, racist tool, with the algorithms full of biases from white, male coders. In Google Scholar, often scholars that come up first in Google Scholar are cited the most and those that come up first, like the businesses, image, and websites, are white authored. 

Read more in her Algorithms of Oppression. Dr. Noble considers use of technology from a Black Feminist standpoint, and is crucial in thinking about systemic violence in ideas that are neutral.

Dr. Sharon Block also discusses these biases in a completely different discipline, "Erasure, Misrepresentation and Confusion: Investigating JSTOR Topics on Women's and Race Histories."
Vinay Uday Prabhu and Abeba Birhane discuss more about computer vision (how computers understand data) and its "problematic practices" in their paper, "Large Image Datasets: A Pyrrhic Win for Computer Vision?

"Citations are political." -Buggs, Sims, Kramer 

To read more about how citation practices continue to create “white people’s active interest in reproducing the racist status quo,” see the following article: Shantel Gabrieal Buggs, Jennifer Patrice Sims & Rory Kramer (2020) "Rejecting White Distraction: A Critique of the White Logic and White Methods in Academic Publishing," Ethnic and Racial Studies, 43:8, 1384-1392, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2020.1718728

These Systems Systemically Silence Voices

Understanding these biases is important because scholarship has become inundated with brands and prestige, rather than thinking about innovation and collectively advancing/helping with knowledge, in many disciplines.

Like most assessments (such as Standardized Testing), peer review was "originally used as a complement to state censorship—foreign products were censored, while those produced within the state under the auspices of national academies were subject to “internal,” that is, intrastate, peer review.”

This is from a professional library organization that has created an overview of scholarly publishing here


The following are examples, sources, and references of how scholarship has been biased in a variety of disciplines.

  • The style, voice, and words in academic language considered as a "standard" can be considered with a "raciolinguistic perspective" and show that such a standard is not flexible to those who are already often othered. Jonathan Rosa and Nelson Flores explain more.

  • #CiteBlackWomen is a hashtag started by Dr. Christen A. Smith to promote Black womxn scholars on Twitter, a platform where many scholars of color have gathered because their institutions have not made space for them or their voices.

  • In science, the National Academy of Science of the United States of American states: "Diversity breeds innovation and innovation is argued to facilitate careers. Yet, underrepresented groups that diversify organizations have less successful careers within them."

  • This letter from RaceB4Race addresses the blatant gatekeeping and racism in publications considering Medieval Studies. 

  • Many publication's ethnics statements are generally "race blind," and do not mention these discrepancies, such as this one

  • Hidden collections: Hide and Seek: Organizing Hidden Collections for Umbra Search African American History Dorothy Berry 2017

  • Systems for publishing scholarship can be embedded with racist harm: A Letter from a Black Woman in Publishing, and Testimonies of People of Color in Scholarly Publishing