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senseless self-citation April 28, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, research, science, work.
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When reviewing papers, I’ve tried to make a point of checking to see if the authors are heavily into self-citation.  I remember realizing how bad the practice was when I was asked to review a paper with a significant number of citations and realized that 90% of them were self-referential.

Self-citing one’s work isn’t inherently a bad thing, particularly if your sub-field is extremely small and you’ve done a significant amount of work in that field.  In that situation, it’s important to point out relevant work, not so much in the sense of, “this was what I did before,” but, “this previous work is relevant to the discussion.”  However, not everyone self-cites that way.  In some cases, someone will self-cite as much of their previous work as possible to get their h-index up.  It may not make sense to do that in certain field, but in some sub-fields of engineering, as well as some other fields, it really can make a huge difference for an early-career professor…particularly if the practice of publishing a bunch of LPUs full of self-citations is the modus operandi.

Beyond that, the practice just really bothers me as it doesn’t make sense.  If you’re in a TT position, it seems like what you’d want to do is cite broadly.  It helps ensure that you have a strong background in the field and that you have a good sense of what other people are doing.  It helps to make comparisons about how your work is unique.  Most importantly, though, it helps other authors realize you exist and will hopefully make them curious about your work.

Finally, someone may be flattered that you cited their work.  I recently had someone comment to me that they were glad someone read their paper other than the editors…and lead author.

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Comments»

1. karifur - April 28, 2014

Self-citation strikes me as either very arrogant or very lazy. Or possibly both.
Then again, I’m not involved in research or academia so there might be some politics at work here that are just outside my area of understanding.

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