Currently I am writing a paper which is related to my previous work. However, there are several publications that I would like to cite from it. I do not want the new manuscript to feel like a easy-self-citing paper, so I wonder which is the limit of self-citation.

Of course, the self-cites correspond to different works, some of them poorly correlated with the others.

  • 7
    Do you mean self-citations? A good rule of thumb is, "Would I cite this paper if I wasn't its author?"
    – ff524
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 6:28
  • @ff524 yes! self-citations is what I meant. I would cite them, but a reviewer can see something fishy in it... Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 6:32
  • 2
    If it's relevant and you're building on work you did before, I don't see why not. As long as you're diversifying yourself and acknowledging the work of other people this shouldn't be an issue.
    – Eppicurt
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 6:34
  • 2
    See Will self-citation be viewed as self-promotion in academia?
    – ff524
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 6:43
  • 1
    Something you might (unfortunately) want to consider is that your paper will probably compete against prolifically self-cited papers. This can be a problem since self-citations make the work more prominent, which leads to more real-citations. Of course, if all researchers self-cite prolifically then "actual" citations reduce and that's a tragedy, a tragedy of the commons. Ethically, however, others are correct (cite as you would if it weren't your own). Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 10:56

1 Answer 1


The answer, of course, is to cite the relevant papers and only those.

This is not very actionable advice. Rather, here is what I would suggest. My discipline is mathematics, for context.

  • If you use, expand, contradict, give a new perspective to, etc, a previous result, then you should cite it.
  • You can usually decide how much space and writing to devote to historical overview and establishing context for the paper. Cite relevant literature; everything if there is only little, or representative sample if there is much. Cover different perspectives at least briefly.
  • At this point, ask yourself: Given the references here, is there something that is missing, or something that seems to be excessive? These questions should weed out excessive self-citations or add citations to other relevant literature.

If you afraid that some citation is not relevant, then consider writing at least a sentence to describe it in the context of your present paper, rather than writing for example

similar questions have also been considered in [1, 2, 3, 4, ..., 13].

A few sentences of context will also serve your readers, who might find your paper when looking for something related. The sentence can guide them towards more relevant papers and away from less relevant ones.

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