Should you cite the document you're refuting or only the documents you use to prove your argument in a research paper? I am wondering what's the consensus on this, because in my opinion, it doesn't make sense to cite a research you're trying to refute or disprove.

  • Do you have an advisor you can discuss this with? Jun 20, 2021 at 6:53
  • 2
    This might be a better fit at academia.stackexchange.com If you think so, you could flag it for moderator attention and ask for migration.
    – user5232
    Jun 20, 2021 at 15:39
  • If you don't cite the refuted work, it's too easy for you to fall into the Straw Man Fallacy (it may be still easy to fall into this, but at least citing gives the reader a fair chance to review your argument).
    – Alexander
    Jun 21, 2021 at 19:08

1 Answer 1


If you are trying to refute an argument made by other authors, you will need to attribute the argument you are trying to refute to those original authors. That means you'll need to cite the works in which they lay out that argument. You can't just say "I think Theory X is wrong", because:

  1. Readers may not know what Theory X is (at least not in great detail), and...
  2. Readers may want to confirm that you are representing Theory X correctly, which means they need to know where you read it.

You must say: "I think Theory X (see: SomeOne et al, "The Magnificent Theory X") is wrong". Though please don't copy my crappy mock citation style or argumentative language...

We don't refute documents; we refute arguments. But we always need to connect the argument we are refuting to the authors who made it, and to the document(s) they made it in.

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