- Saying “this is not my work!”
- Saying “this is the work of [named person or entity]!”
- Showing where the author found information or an idea.
- Showing other people where to find that information or idea, too.
- Showing that someone, anyone, other than the author has previously stated this piece of information or articulated this idea.
- Proving that the author can cut and paste from a random website.
- Proving that the author can cut and paste from a “suggested citation” widget.
- Proving that the author can use citation software.
- Demonstrating competency in a weird niche subcultural skill.
- Demonstrating competency in using specific kinds of sources.
- Demonstrating that the author is willing to jump through certain hoops for a grade.
- Illustrating that the author read* particular sources.
- Illustrating that the author read* “the right” sources.
- Illustrating that the author read† Reviewer 2’s publications.
- Claiming membership in an academic field or academic tradition
- Claiming expertise for the author.
- Claiming association with people of recognized stature in a field.
- Performing one or more identities.
- Manifesting anxiety.
- Excluding people from in-group status.
- Making a joke.
- – ∞ a LOT of other functions
* (or skimmed)
† (almost certainly skimmed)
‡ See, e.g., Minn. R. 1550.1760 (1996).
Related readings (by no means the only things I’ve read on this topic, just the ones I can remember right now)(edit: slightly updated and ordered in semi-interestingness, 5/10/19):
Posner, Richard A. The Little Book of Plagiarism. New York: Pantheon Books, 2007.
ZERBY, C. (2007). The Devil’s Details: A History of Footnotes. New York, Touchstone.
Wincor, Richard. From Ritual to Royalties; An Anatomy of Literary Property. New York: Walker, 1962.
Lots of folks in replies scandalized by this footnote, but I think it's beautiful. https://t.co/Ono2gsOS2O
— Angus Johnston (@studentactivism) May 9, 2019