It is quite common practice in the scientific world when an author refers to the previous works written by him alone or in co-authorship and cites them, and the cited fragments can be quite large. This is called self-citation.
On one hand, this approach is quite reasonable as not all the readers are familiar with the author’s previous works and sometimes even cannot have access to them for a number of reasons. Meanwhile, a new publication is often a continuation of previous studies. Therefore it is quite obvious that the author wants to refer to his previous works on the subject in a new article. Simple reference to such studies should not be considered as self-citation. The author does this not for raising his citation index or promoting himself but in order not to wander from the main subject and to meet the reader’s curiosity in case the reader wants to go deeper into the matter.
Self-citations are inevitable when the scientist is studying a unique problem, which has not been explored by anyone else yet. In this case he has no one to refer to except for himself. Other scientists will also refer to him much less frequently, and not because his works are not of core value, but mostly because other researchers are dealing with their narrow problems.
It is impossible to do without self-citations at all. Self-cites are used to compare current results of the research with earlier findings when continuing to study the same subject. It seems that the only reasonable solution here is to limit the amount of self-cites. But it is not as clear as it seems. There is a common opinion that self-citation level should not be above 25% for authors and 35% for co-authors. But sometimes it is hard to follow this rule as these levels do not always depend on the author himself, like in the case of investigating an unpopular problem. In such cases, even if the author does not overdo self-citing, the level can be close to 100% since others refer to him very rarely or do not refer at all.
Some authors are more likely to cite their colleagues’ work than their competitors’; some journals expect their submitting authors will primarily cite the articles published in these journals. However, the easiest way to promote your own work and yourself is with the self-citation. It is often the case when an author cites his previous publications to artificially raise the citation index and his rating among scientists. Naturally, when a person’s career or reputation depends on citation counts, there is always a temptation to inflate the numbers.
To sum up, here are the three useful citation tips, which are simple to follow and can be helpful for those involved in academic research:
- If you need to cite the work you have already published, cite it.
- If more than one of your previous works support your new study, cite the best one.
- Use self-citations to support your arguments, not to demonstrate your research.
Self-promotion is neither good nor bad when considering the needs of the reader. Self-cites should not be added to a paper solely for self-promotion. Meanwhile, they should not be avoided in fear of appearing self-promoting and inappropriate. By focusing on the reader and trying to be descent, you can easily avoid most problems concerning citations.