Citations figure prominently in academic promotion and peer review. Theoretically, scholarly references serve a dual purpose: They indicate an author’s familiarity with established literature and assign credit to previous work, while from the other direction many would argue they signal a paper’s relevance and standing within a discipline.
That’s, of course, in theory. The reality may surprise many academics who might not stop to think about the system they rely on for the production of knowledge, or who studiously ignore those little superscript numbers that indicate (again, in theory), Read the referenced paper to learn why the preceding assertion is correct.
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(thanks to minicapt)