Referring to sources using substitution

It has been argued that expenditure needed for applying a circular economy tends to be high (Kirchher et al., 2017). However, their claim is easy to counter given the many economic benefits offered by a circular economy.

This writer has used their as a substitute for a source – Kircher et al. However, since the source is in brackets and has not yet appeared in the body of the text, we have to assume that the reader has not yet seen it! Only use a pronoun as a substitute if the noun you are substituting has already been mentioned in the body of the text:

  • It has been argued by Kircher et al. (2017) that expenditure needed for applying a circular economy tends to be high. However, their claim is easy to counter given the many economic benefits offered by a circular economy.

Recommended

Actually it is generally better to refer directly to ideas rather than to people. If the idea is in ‘rheme’1 position, use this (or these for plural nouns):

  • It has been argued by Kircher et al. (2017) that expenditure needed for applying a circular economy tends to be high. However, this claim is easy to challenge given the many economic benefits offered by a circular economy.

Possible, but less elegant

Meanwhile if a claim is in ‘theme’1 position (unlikely!), refer back to it using it (or they for plural nouns):

  • The argument that expenditure needed for applying a circular economy tends to be high has been put forward by Kircher et al. (2015). However, it is an argument that is easy to challenge given the many economic benefits offered by a circular economy.

Warning!

Make sure that you do not use it to refer back to the ‘rheme’. The following is incorrect:

  • It has been argued by Kircher et al. (2017) that expenditure needed for applying a circular economy tends to be high. However, it is easy to challenge given the many economic benefits offered by a circular economy.

In this case it refers back to expenditure needed for applying a circular economy, which is a noun phrase and cannot be ‘challenged’. The idea being ‘challenged’ is: expenditure tends to be high.

Further information

Again, for an explanation of the terms theme and rheme, see this post.

And finally

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