The benefits of self citation: 5 ways to do it right

Self-citation is praised by some who see its power and necessity, and criticised by the others, who call it self-plagiarism, and believe it’s unethical. A self-citation’s secret lies in its proper use, since it’s an integral part of scientific research, giving readers insight into sources that can be explored further. Discover the benefits of self citation and 5 ways to do it right.

#1 Have a reason for self-citation, don’t repeat your ideas

Some authors may think it’s all right to repeat their ideas in multiple publications, and that self-citation is not necessary, but such a situation may be called self-plagiarism. The most important reason for self-citation is the situation when you want to expand your own, already published research. 

There are times when researchers are working on a larger project and have new conclusions they wish to share, or even when a similar issue arises during the research process. In such a situation it’s crucial to follow the suggestions of an editor or a reviewer, who may find some references are missing.

#2 Keep common sense in self-citation ratio 

A number of self-citations are possible, depending on the discipline and the topic, ranging from a few to many hundreds. A study published in 2019 showed that the average self-citation ratio is 12.7%, based on the group of 100,000 researchers, and over 1,000 scientists had a >40% self-citation rate.

If you are an influential researcher in your field, and the results of your research are the latest, or the most original, you are somehow forced to cite yourself, yet, don’t fall into the category of citation farms scientists, whose works are mainly focused on extensive citation of other scientists’ findings.

#3 Use self-citation of the relevant work

Some researchers seem to go crazy about self-citation, turning their papers into a multiplied work full of cites, only to improve their h-index. Self-citation is right until you cite the relevant work, which means it’s not alright to cite your work about the healthy diet of teens while writing a new article about the lifespan of a sea turtle. 

It’s also an important issue to cite the original work, not yourself citing someone else. Imagine that in your previous article you cited another researcher, and you want to use the quote again. It’s unacceptable to cite yourself citing someone else, which means you need to find the original source of the quote again.

#4 Use the conventions of the genre, meet the expectations

When using self-citation, you need to be sure if that’s acceptable by the academic community, publishers, and readers. Analyze the conventions of the genre you’re writing,  as articles and theses need more detailed reference lists, while reports or letters don’t require so many of them. 

Remember about the specifications of the style guide, and bear in mind self-citation is still about using quotes, which requires specific style. 

It’s a good idea to cite yourself in the third person, for example, Smith (2019) claimed… in formal papers, while in the casual ones you may write: “As I stated in a previous paper…”

#5 Make sure you have the right to cite the original work 

As a first-time author, you may be proud of yourself, but you may not know much about copyrights. It may seem as if you have full ownership rights to the article you have written, but you are probably wrong. The material should be copyright protected, if it is, you cannot repeat its information. Only quoting is allowed.

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