I am currently writing 2 conference papers. One is highly quantitative in nature and the other is absolutely qualitative in nature. I am submitting both papers to conferences having deadlines in the next couple of months.

The papers present results on 3 different research questions on the same topic and are highly related with each other. You could argue that paper A + paper B together present a holistic view of the answer to these research questions. Individually, paper A and paper B show a different side to the problem since you generally get alternate points of view from quantitative and qualitative works.

Since the papers and their results are highly interrelated, there exists a compelling reason for me to ensure that they cite each other. I have seen this question and this question which are also highly related to my question. However, my question is different enough, in my opinion to warrant a separate question.

  1. How should I cite these papers? (one paper is going to be in APA style and the other will be in ACM style)

  2. Does it make good sense to contact the Associate Chairs of these conferences for further clarification?

  3. The most important question for me is, is this ethical? Does it not break the double blind review system? I am ready to not cite these papers if that is the case.

I am having conversations with my adviser about this but just want some broader perspective from different disciplines if I am somehow missing something.

  • 3
    The answer to this question seems to be field dependent. In what fields is it unadvisable to cite unpublished work? In math the peer review process takes forever, but it is extremely common to cite preprints, and I've never heard advice that one shouldn't do this.
    – Anonymous
    Jul 31, 2013 at 13:10
  • 4
    Can you put both papers on the arXiv?
    – JeffE
    Jul 31, 2013 at 15:22
  • 1
    @JeffE I am pretty sure that I could put the quantitative paper on arXiv. I am not so sure about the qualitative paper - I was of the opinion that arXiv prefers quantitative papers. However, both are broadly, in the field of Human Computer Interaction and there exists a sub-repository for it (HC) on the server. Actually, I might just ask Dr. Ginsparg when I see him sometime soon about this. :) Thanks for the tip.
    – Shion
    Jul 31, 2013 at 16:27
  • 1
    Not sure about your area and especially about conferences, but for journal papers, you can often submit supplementary material which could be used in the reviewing process. Could you submit a draft of paper A as supplementary material for paper B and vice versa? Or maybe just excerpts/graphs etc.? Jun 20, 2014 at 12:22

5 Answers 5


Normally, unpublished materials are just that, unpublished, and should be treated as such. It is, however, always possible to reference your other work as "in prep." until it becomes published. You need to look carefully at any instruction for authors on how such references should be made and if they are acceptable.

If you add such a reference to a paper it is always possible to remove the reference if one of the works becomes rejected or if it is unlear if it will be published. What should be avoided is to have references to work as "in prep." remaining if the work is unlikely to ever getting published. After all, the purpose of referencing is to provide published sources that others can access.

Including an "in prep." reference will also provide problems for reviewers and adding or removing such a reference during the review process means that something that can not be checked is added or removed in the manuscript. So my suggestion is to avoid having to rely on such a reference for any key points in the manuscript.

You are, in other words, in a grey zone when it comes to referencing. The best solution would be one where you do not rely on unpublished references but if you think you must then use your discretion and make sure your inclusion is made in a way that it is not key to your conclusions or that it might not affect the reviews in a signficant way. You, furthermore, should be as confident as you can that they both will be accepted in the end.

  • Thanks. This is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for. In certain fields, it is quite common to see ~25% references "in prep". However, I have no idea what the standards are in HCI - just because the field itself is all over the place. :)
    – Shion
    Jul 31, 2013 at 16:29
  • Just both papers on a preprint server when you submit them. Then referees will have access to them. Jun 30, 2020 at 5:48

Normally, you can update citations until the proofreading stage. I've done that at more than one occasion. When submitting the article, I cite Myself et al. (submitted 20xx). Then the manuscript goes through peer review, revisions, subsequently typesetting, etc. By the time the final proofs come out, I probably know whether Myself et al. is rejected or not, and can probably provide an updated citation. In the worst case, I can replace it by a short text that this will be considered in a future publication.

  • 1
    Rather than removing the citation, cite as an unpublished manuscript, article in preparation, preprint, etc. Oct 5, 2018 at 13:51

I think this boils down to the question

Should I cite a paper that has not (yet) been accepted?

In my opinion, citing an unaccepted paper is risky, since for a reason or another it might be rejected, and submitted somewhere else later on. Then, your paper would be citing the wrong proceedings or journal. Once a paper is accepted (achieves the in press status), I think citing is OK.

And hey, you can just write in the conclusions that your future work will be concentrating on the same problem from another point of view. Interested readers will go google your name.

  • 1
    Of course you wouldn't cite the paper as appearing in the journal or conference it's been submitted to before it has been accepted. That would simply be false. Instead, you cite it as being an unpublished manuscript, "in preparation", or "submitted" (and just "submitted", not "submitted to [specific venue]"). Or you upload a preprint, or turn it into a tech report. But, when the paper is clearly relevant, it needs to be cited somehow. Oct 5, 2018 at 13:51
  • It's extremely common to cite work that has not been accepted in a peer-reviewed venue. It is certainly not "risky". There are plenty of things that can and should be cited even though they will never be submitted to a conference or journal. You just need to provide an accurate citation, as @DavidRicherby says. Jun 30, 2020 at 5:46

You could create Technical Reports for each paper and cite the Tech Reports in your conference submissions.

If you decide to do this (and especially if you put the TRs on your web page), you may want to be careful about self-plagiarism.


Editor A wrote to editor B, indicating that one of the reviewers of a paper submitted to Journal A contained material that had been submitted at about the same time to Journal B. Editor A requested a copy of the paper submitted to Journal B. Editor B responded, confirming that the paper in question had been submitted to Journal B (submission date two weeks earlier than the paper submitted to Journal A), but had been rejected eight weeks later after external peer review. Editor B sent a copy of the rejected paper to editor A. Editor A examined the two papers and confirmed that there was “some degree of overlap” between the two and also felt that there was a degree of “salami slicing.

What should the editors do now?

The answer can be found here.

In order to avoid such an unpleasant affair why not boil the question down to

[One] could argue that paper A + paper B together present a holistic view of the answer to these research questions.

and submit only one paper?

I don't want to accuse you of scientific misconduct but your statement is at least suspicious in this regard. Therefore, a single paper would provide the following two benefits:

  • No need to cite your second, unpublished paper.
  • Absolutely ethical scientific conduct (in contrast to a strategy of "salami slicing" or building on the "Least Publishable Unit").
  • You raise a good point. However, in the conferences that I submit to; the limit is 10 pages, ACM style. When you are exploring one question from 2 methodological angles, you need to provide enough detail about both methods otherwise reviewers will not accept it. This necessitates submission of 2 papers and is pretty common in my field.
    – Shion
    Aug 9, 2015 at 1:09
  • In my case, contacting the Associate Chairs was enough. You can cite a paper in progress - whether it will be accepted is another matter - however, you can make pre-prints available on your website or on arxiv and these can be inspected by the reviewers. My field is interdisciplinary and at many times, messy and therefore, these clean distinctions do not always apply.
    – Shion
    Aug 9, 2015 at 1:11
  • @Shion "the limit is 10 pages": this is of course a very good point of yours. On the one hand scientific ethics ban "salami slicing", on the other hand editors don't want researchers to submit long papers. As I wrote, I don't want to accuse you, I only wanted to provide a different view on your problem. As you asked your question in 2013, I did not expect it to be still relevant for you. But the different view might help others. Allow me a final remark: Given the page limitation a solution might be to combine the papers and submit the article to a journal without page limitations instead.
    – ToJo
    Aug 9, 2015 at 13:18
  • Which also depends on your field of research. I know that in some fields conference publications are regarded more important then journal publications.
    – ToJo
    Aug 9, 2015 at 13:20
  • Agreed very much. My collaborators, advisers and the general culture in my field is to do conferences as opposed to journals although I wish that weren't the case since journals usually have a 25 page limit. Therefore, the culture in our area is to aim for the top 2 conferences in our field every year which is why everyone tries to hit those deadlines all the time.
    – Shion
    Aug 9, 2015 at 16:24

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