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08/29/2013

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Daniel

Self-citation strikes me as among the least objectionable forms of self-promotion. If you have multiple papers that fit together, such that one addresses objections another sets aside, or develops issues that another raises without focusing on, it's helpful to readers to point them to that.

If you're citing yourself just for the sake of a citation, even when it's not relevant, that's a different story. But I've done some self-citing, (I hope of the unobjectionable variety), and I plan to do more, and I don't feel bad about it.

Rachel

I self-cite because "the guys are doing it." Self-citing doesn't help one's H-index, though (not when people dig down into your paper's citation numbers), but it can help with getting your work noticed (which may lead to a real increase in H-index and citation rates).

This utter nonsense against self-promotion needs to stop. I know I've spoken about this before. These are nonsense norms. We are all a "business" in a sense and we have to market ourselves. Those who don't are missing easy opportunities. ...I want to say something stronger, but I won't.

elisa freschi

I completely agree with Daniel. I cite myself or refer to a previous work whenever it is relevant, but I am disturbed to see X quoting everything he or she has written, even if it has no direct relevance to the topic currently examined (ever seen authors who refer to ALL their previous articles?).

As a rule of thumb: treat your articles as if they had not been written by you. Cite them no more (but also no less) than other people's works.

Richard

As much of my work builds in various ways on earlier work I have done, I cite myself quite regularly. It's the only way to avoid having to go into detail into arguments that I have already made elsewhere.

Moti Mizrahi

Like the others, I'm not sure why self-promotion is supposed to be a bad thing (even if self-citation is just self-promotion).

Marcus Arvan

I agree with everyone so far - well, mostly. I agree that there's nothing wrong with self-citation. I disagree with Rachel that worries about self-promotion are "utter nonsense." Yes, we are in a business, and it is perfectly legitimate to market oneself. I have no qualms with that. But it is possible to go overboard and come off like a used-car salesperson.

In most lines of work, one's *work* speaks for itself. When people hear a great song or see a great film or read a great novel or philosophy paper, they tell their friends about it, and it spreads by word of mouth. Sometimes stumping *too* much for oneself comes across a bit desperate and narcissistic. At least, this is how I was raised -- and I think there is something to it. Do good work, and let others know *that* it exists. But let others talk about how good it is.

Rachel

I don't mean to say that there are *no possible worries that have to do with self-promotion.* What I'm saying is that what's being posted lately on blogs about the norms of self-promotion (including that really stupid one about Facebook, from a few weeks ago) is nonsense. Yes, if someone is citing everything they've ever written under the sun, relevant or not, then that's problematic. But if the question is merely: is it inappropriate to cite one's own work? I mean...really?

My worry is that "self-promotion" is already negatively valenced in too many people's minds. There's nothing wrong with "virtuous" self-promotion. I tend to think that one has to go pretty far to be vicious about it, though (I have seen it, including recently!). I think most people, especially women, are on the "too little" end of the spectrum.

Justin Caouette

I agree with Rachel, Daniel, Moti, and others.

If your goal is to get a TT position or Tenure and getting your work out there via "self-citing" or other forms of self-promoting is a way to help facilitate that goal then I say promote away!

I appreciate when others post links to their newest articles and when they reference older ones (especially if I liked their newest piece). It makes it easier for me to follow their career and to be easily updated on new developments in sub-disciplines I am interested in but may not come across often in my own research.

I agree with Rachel that many do not do this enough. This point might help explain why some find it narcissistic when others self-promote.

So, Marcus, to your three questions I would answer: yes-yes-and, it is only wrong when it shares no relevance to the current work.

C.J.

I don’t have any problem with self-citation. If an article is relevant, it seems you are required, by standards of responsible scholarship, to cite the piece whether it is yours or not.

However, regarding self- promotion: I remember Marcus concluding that he was surprised to learn he was among the ‘distinct minority’ when it comes to his disdain for self-promotion on social media. I think that may be too quick of a conclusion.

Thousands of persons read this blog, but only a few post. It seems that there is a certain sort of person that tends to post on blogs. It wouldn’t surprise me if this same sort of person is often the sort of person comfortable with self-promotion.

In any case, I rarely post on blogs. And FWIW, I completely agree with Marcus on the distastefulness of self-promotion on social media and elsewhere.

Cheers


David Morrow

Thanks for your comments, everyone. I wish that someone who finds self-citation distasteful would share his or her views. I'd bet that philosophy exhibits the same citation and self-citation gender gap that Maliniak, Powers & Walter fins in political science. That means that there are a lot of very smart, thoughtful people who choose not to cite themselves very often, and I'd really like to hear their point of view. As C.J. points out, such people are probably reluctant to post in such a public venue, so let me remind you that you are free to use initials, first names, or pseudonyms, as many others do here.

WL

I don't find self-citations to be objectionable if they are relevant to (i.e., naturally fit within) the paper. That being said, I have a procedural or logistical question: How do you ensure that your identity is not given away when you do the self-citation? Do you cite yourself third-personally in the draft of the paper that is reviewed? Or do you add a footnote after the sentence or paragraph in question that says something like "citation deleted to preserve anonymity"? I guess I have worries, slightly neurotic ones, about both of these methods of self-citation.

With regard to third-personal citations of myself: I worry that, if my citations are of big-name-1, big-name-2, big-name-3, my name, big-name-4, big-name-5, and so on, then my name will stand out and the reviewer may well suspect that I am the author. (I guess I could cite more smaller names in the paper, and the problem would go away. But adding extra citations, just so that I can cite myself without being noticed, might not be worth it.)

With regard to the move of adding a footnote that says something like "citation deleted to preserve anonymity" after the sentence or paragraph in question: If I do this, then the reviewer will know that I (the author) am linked to the content of this sentence or paragraph. And, depending on the reviewer and how extensive his or her knowledge of the background literature is, that could be a give-away to my identity.

Anyway, I know these are slightly neurotic worries. But I am wondering what others do about this issue.

elisa freschi

@WL, in my work for journals, what we do is that WE delete the author's quotations of herself/himself (so that a reference to "Freschi 2006: 123" would be modified into "AUTHOR DATE: PAGE" with no further indication). We also try to do it in a way which makes it less likely for the reviewer to understand what has been deleted (for instance, by deleting the whole footnote if needed). You are right, it might be the case that the reviewer will understand that you are the author because you mention the topic about which you have written, but I would not overestimate this case (after all, there are many scholars around and if a reviewer can immediately recognise you just because s/he comes to know one of the topics of your research, you must really be a big name in your field!). A few days ago, a reviewer went back to me saying that he could not go on with the review, because he had understood who the author was… but he was wrong!

WL

Thanks, Elisa!

Rachel

The alternative is to write [REFERENCE ELIDED]. Additionally, the first line of the works cited section can read: "All identifying entries have been removed for the anonymous review process."

Roman

This is a great thread, and I was hoping for some advice on the last topic.

Elisa: how common is it for editors to remove identifying references themselves? My sense is that most journals ask authors to remove any identifying references prior to submission.

I'm also wondering how people navigate the issue when the self-reference really is necessary, for example because my argument requires, as a step, a pretty wacky-sounding claim. Now I suppose it would make sense to just defend the claim, but what if defending it would take a whole paper in itself (while being a digression from the main argument), and I just happen to already have such a paper written? Removing the reference would give the reviewer the impression of an unsupported premise in the argument. Leaving it in would violate blind review.

Marcus Arvan

Roman: correct me if I'm wrong, but I've always been under the impression that one must remove self-references *only* if one writes something like: "In my earlier article...". A way around this is to write the paper entirely third-personally. So, for instance, I might write: "Arvan (2013) defends thesis X." Provided I don't imply anywhere else in the paper that *I'm* Arvan, this is fine. Indeed, in some cases, it's absolutely necessary. For instance, if you have a new paper that builds on an old one, you *have* to cite yourself. It would simply make no sense to say (citation removed) to preserve blind review, because in that case the reader wouldn't be able to look up where the thesis was defended.

In short, I would say: proper self-citation is easy. Just write the paper in such a way that it cannot be properly inferred that it's *you* (as opposed to someone else) writing the current paper!

Roman

That makes sense, Marcus. I guess that, like WL, I get worried if--say--I'm citing "forthcoming" work (or, worse, unpublished manuscript--which yes, I probably shouldn't do, but publishing in the right order takes way too long!) by somebody the reader has never heard of...

Rachel

In that case, you need to re-write the paper so it doesn't depend on the other paper's argument. It sucks, and it's sub-optimal, but it's the only way around it. If you want to build off of previous work, it needs to be in print. I've had the same problem, and this is how I solved it.

David Morrow

I think it's okay to refer to forthcoming work in a piece you've submitted—especially if the forthcoming piece is likely to be published by the time your manuscript is accepted. Citing an "unpublished manuscript," however, will rarely do you much good. If you're trying to bolster some claim without restating your argument for it, I think people would be rightly skeptical if you said, in effect, "I have a good argument for this in a paper that no one has yet been willing to publish. Trust me!"

I don't think that citing forthcoming work by a "no-name" scholar signals that the forthcoming work is your own. It could be that you're a junior scholar citing the work of a friend or of another junior scholar whom you met at a conference. Or it could be that you're a senior scholar citing the work of a student.

All in all, I think that citing your own forthcoming work in a third-person way shouldn't be too high on any list of worries about compromising blind review.

elisa freschi

@Roman, it depends on the journal's requirements. As an author, I have been required to delete every reference myself, whereas as someone working for journals, I am used to do it for others. We even delete references from our conferences' websites and the like during the review process!

@Marcus and David, I am sure that I am not the only reviewer who could easily spot who the author was although the references were in a third-person form. In many cases it is just obvious because of the overwhelming number of titles quoted, in others because X quotes only the classics (so that one can easily see that he or she is not a committed reader) and then the works of a certain John Smith… Thus, once again, this strategy only works if you are quoting yourself in the same way and with the same amount of quotations you would have of any other author stating the same points.

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