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Becoming a scholar by publication – PhD students citing in interdisciplinary argumentation

Eystein Gullbekk (Oslo Metropolitan University and University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway)
Katriina Byström (Oslo Metropolitan University and University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 5 December 2018

Issue publication date: 19 February 2019




The purpose of this paper is to analyse scholarly subjectivity in the context of citation practices in interdisciplinary PhD research.


The paper provides an analysis of longitudinal series of qualitative interviews with PhD students who write scholarly articles as dissertation components. Conceptualizations of subjectivity within practice theories form the basis for the analysis.


Scholarly argumentation entails a rhetorical paradox of “bringing something new” to the communication while at the same time “establishing a common ground” with an audience. By enacting this paradox through citing in an emerging interdisciplinary setting, the informants negotiate subject positions in different modes of identification across the involved disciplines. In an emerging interdisciplinary field, the articulation of scholarly subjectivity is a joint open-ended achievement demanding knowledgeability in multiple disciplinary understandings and conducts. However, identifications that are expressible within the informants’ local site, i.e. interactions with supervisors, other seniors and peers, are not always expressible when negotiating subject positions with journals.


This paper contributes to research on citation practices in emerging interdisciplinary fields. By linking the enactment of citing in scholarly writing to the negotiation of subject positions, the paper provides new insights about the complexities involved in becoming a scholar.



The authors are grateful to the PhD students who participated in the study. Thanks are also due to Ragnar Andreas Audunson at the Oslo Metropolitan University, and Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke at the Centre for Learning, Innovation & Academic Development at the University of Oslo, for valuable comments. Thanks to the Faculty of Librarianship, Information, Education and IT at the University of Borås for providing the authors with the opportunity to discuss the study in their research seminar series. Sidsel Lied, Jan Kåre Hummelvoll and Liv Ingeborg Lied all gave inspiring responses. The authors also acknowledge the anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. This work has partly been made possible through a leave granted by the first author’s employer, The University of Oslo Library.


Gullbekk, E. and Byström, K. (2019), "Becoming a scholar by publication – PhD students citing in interdisciplinary argumentation", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 2, pp. 247-269.



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