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The Wikipedia rules about citing yourself state:

Using material you have written or published is allowed within reason, but only if it is relevant, conforms to the content policies, ... and is not excessive.

While the Wikipedia rules allows self citation, is it ethical to self cite?

Short example: there are two good papers on the same topic, A and B. Is it ethical for the authors of paper A to include a reference to A and not B in the "References" section at the end of the article even if it is not cited in the article. On Wikipedia, it is pretty common for things to be just listed at the end and not mentioned in the article itself.

My questions are:

  • At what point is it appropriate to edit references to my own papers/preprints into Wikipedia? (Maybe even add a paragraph claiming the same breakthrough I claim in my own paper.)

  • What should one do when noticing that otherwise unknown and very new preprints pop up as (uncited) references in Wikipedia articles?

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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about wikipedia rules and etiquette. –  EnergyNumbers Jul 25 '14 at 17:54
What @EnergyNumbers says. It would be better to ask this question on Wikipedia somewhere. –  gerrit Jul 25 '14 at 17:55
^ Yes and no. Knowing Wikipedia's rules definitely helps. Self-generated contents should not be listed as reference (exceptions do apply, see the link). Yet, arXiv is kind of an odd duck, I guess it depends on how we view arXiv as a source. –  Penguin_Knight Jul 25 '14 at 18:09
This is covered by Wikipedia's conflict of interest policies and is off-topic, here. –  David Richerby Jul 25 '14 at 23:14
I think Wikipedia rules are very relevant to this question (see my answer below), but I also agree that it is fully in scope here. Voting to keep open (and also disagreeing with the downvotes - this is an important question!). –  xLeitix Jul 26 '14 at 6:42

6 Answers 6


Let someone else do it.

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Never is a big word. There are some kinds of papers (like survey papers) that could be very well added to it. For the general case, I agree that someone else (e.g. a peer) adding it is some kind of review (wrt relevance), which is good in this case, but we should not forget that wikipedia is peer reviewed also to edit and remove (it's non-monotonic). In some niches, adding it by yourself can accelerate everything a lot, without dramatic consequences due to wiki's non-monotonic nature. –  Trylks Jul 28 '14 at 11:07
Nope. Never. Adding a citation to tour own work, even if that work is a survey paper, is a straightforward conflict of interest. "Acceleration" is not a balancing virtue. (I will admit that Wikipedia's official conflict-of-interest policy is somewhat more flexible than mine.) –  JeffE Jul 28 '14 at 13:41
I think this is a ridiculous recommendation. What if you want to help write the article on a new species of bird and one of your papers is the only one describing its wingspan? If would be ludicrous not to cite your paper. –  Behacad Jul 29 '14 at 14:26
I totally agree. If your contribution is important enough someone else will add it. –  The Almighty Bob Jul 29 '14 at 14:29
I tend to agree. A possible solution could be to propose your paper in the associated discussion page (and mention your conflict of interest) - this way someone else editing the page will have all the information and can decide if it is relevant or not. –  Bitwise Jul 29 '14 at 14:34

I think this question really has two parts, the ethical question and the practical question.

First of, the ethical question. Let me say that I am surprised that you see the issue whether it is ethical to self-plug your work on Wikipedia as an entirely different issue than whether this is allowed by Wikipedia policy. Wikipedia is a private web site run on private donations, and is entitled to define how they want to do things around their piece of the web (much like we do here at Stack Exchange, to the chagrin of plenty a new user). I think it is impossible to argue that it is ethical (for academics or anybody else) to (mis-)use their service in a way that violates their own rules for your personal gain. Hence, to answer your updated question:

It's a question about what is considered ethical in academia

This is not, precisely due to the reason that you say you are not interested in: it is not allowed by Wikipedia. It cannot be ethical to use their service, but don't consider their rules.

Second, your question also has a bit of a practical part. You claim that it should be really easy to self-plug your work on Wikipedia, and that it will be hard to trace and prevent. (You also seem to imply that this impact on the ethical question, which I think it has not - whether something can be done is pretty much irrelevant to whether it is ethical to do it)

I have a bit of a case study for this. A large European research project I was involved with some time ago once got asked by its reviewers to add their own papers and other outcomes to relevant articles "to increase visibility". After some internal discussion, the project obliged and started with some really defendable and arguably independently useful edits (taking very stubby articles and improving them with peer-reviewed content from our own papers, and adding references). All of those changes were rolled back within minutes, with the explanation that the edits looked too much like self-advertisement. We tried again, even more conservatively, and the same thing happened again. It turned out that the self-policing in Wikipedia works much better than anybody in the project anticipated. We gave up on the issue quickly.

The morale here is just that Wikipedia is aware that people could try to do this (and I am sure many do), and are very vigilant. I am sure you are able to edit in your links given enough energy, but it may be much harder than you imply it is.

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On the practical side, my guess is you'd have more luck adding paper A as a reference to support existing claims in the article that lack citation, than you'd have adding in a paragraph saying "paper A this that and the other". It's some time since I contributed to Wikipedia, so I may be out of date. Of course even if not detected it would still be self-promotion. I'd go further and say it's unwise just to edit articles in an area you work in. You're so knowledgable that you won't be able to help writing something that Wikipedia considers original, even if you're trying just to review. –  Steve Jessop Jul 26 '14 at 9:12
... I mean, I'm sure there are some good Wikipedians who've trained themselves in the necessary discipline to do that, but an audience that's wondering whether to plug its own papers on Wikipedia is not those people and so is not the exception to my rule :-) –  Steve Jessop Jul 26 '14 at 9:15
  1. it should be peer-reviewed, otherwise wikipedia would be working nearly as a primary source (anyone could write something on a blog and use it as a reference, laughable).
  2. once it's peer-reviewed, the references should be reasonable, they should support what is written in wikipedia and what is written should have a general interest in the article itself. Maybe many people would see my paper on topology if I put it in the Pope's article, but that's basically vandalism.
  3. every paper has a set of references and describes the state of the art in some area, some of those references may be self-references. That is mostly the type of content that should be provided in wikipedia.

it has never occurred to me that there's a high potential of the same kind of abuse by academics.

If well used, this should be helpful for both academics and wikipedia.

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"anyone could write something on a blog and use it as a reference, laughable" - Though we shouldn't forget that probably the vast majority of references on and outside of Wikipedia (everything that is not directly related to research results) is just that, texts that someone has written without a thorough review process related to the correctness of the contents. –  O. R. Mapper Jul 26 '14 at 10:31
"probably the vast majority" [citation needed] –  Trylks Jul 28 '14 at 10:13
While a thorough analysis would be interesting, as an illustration of the impression I had: Using the random article feature from Wikipedia, I have looked into five articles: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Article 1 does not have any references, the external resources indicated are two sports websites with presumeably ... –  O. R. Mapper Jul 28 '14 at 11:35
... somewhat thoroughly written information on sportspersons, though no indication of a verifiable review process of the contents of said sites is provided. Article 2 provides references to various books on history. It might be reasonable to hope that the contents of those books was somehow reviewed for correctness. Article 3 deals with a biological topic and thus references biological scientific resources. Article 4 points out a variety of websites where the show in question is described by its producers, a YouTube video, an interview and an ad, a personal blog and someone's photo site. ... –  O. R. Mapper Jul 28 '14 at 11:35
... Article 5 provides some links to sports sites and fan sites with descriptions of the described player. Various of the linked websites are described as "community efforts", which implies a basic level of content control, possibly on the same level of reliability as Wikipedia itself. And that said, 5 of the 16 concrete linked pages were not reachable any more and thus could not be verified. –  O. R. Mapper Jul 28 '14 at 11:36

The three columns of wikipedia are Verifiability, No Original Research, and Neutral Point of View. In my opinion (and this is established in a large part of the wikipedia community, imho), you should avoid adding your own citations, since it is hard to have a neutral point of view wether your citation is really that important.

What you can do instead (and what I have seen), is that you suggest adding your citation (or some paragraph about your work) at the talk page of the article. Have patience and see how other react to your suggestion.

If on the other hand you see questionable sources, you might remove it. But again if you feel unsure if this is appropriate use the talk page of the article.

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Neutral Point of View applies to the article itself not which reference you choose to support it. –  Jack Aidley Jul 26 '14 at 8:52
@JackAidley: If your reference is relevant or not might also be depend from your point of view (as well as having an paragraph about your work in the lemma). –  A.Schulz Jul 26 '14 at 11:36

If you think that an article of yours would be a useful reference, you can mention it on the Talk page for the relevant article or an associated Wikiproject, and suggest to other editors that they consider adding it to the main article.

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You should cite your own work if it truly adds to the quality of the Wikipedia article. It's true that it's in one's self-interest to get the publicity you described from having one's work cited on Wikipedia, but it can also be constructive. After all, who is going to know the subject better than the person who wrote a peer-reviewed journal article on it?

If it really is shameless and unethical self-promotion, people will see it and know, and so will the Wikipedia admins, who will revert it with prejudice.

Even though Wikipedia has rules against original research, once research is peer-reviewed and accepted by the scientific community, it doesn't really matter who adds it to Wikipedia. An example of a scholar writing about his own work can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wheel_theory

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"who is going to know the subject better than the person who wrote a peer-reviewed journal article on it" - kind of the point of Wikipedia is that it doesn't need or want the person who knows the subject best to write the article on it. There's nothing inherently wrong with disputing that view (especially since articles written by experts are much better than, say, Wikipedia stubs), but Wikipedia will push back on you if it notices action on that basis. Wikipedia just isn't the right venue for those expert articles :-) –  Steve Jessop Jul 26 '14 at 9:23

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