Given that in many areas the peer-review process is quite lengthy (even a couple of years), it often happens that, by the time the journal version of a paper appears, the preprint version (e.g. arxiv) has accumulated a couple of citations.

My question is: do citations of the preprint count as citations of the journal version?

  • 2
    Count for what? There is no legal or formal status of citations, only people using (usually incomplete) data to make decision, in a variety of contexts. The most prominent database in mathematics, MathSciNet, does retroactively count citations to the preprint in at least some cases. I do not think that Web of Science does that, but I cannot tell for sure. Aug 21, 2013 at 8:36
  • @BenoîtKloeckner I meant "count as" (as you later answered yourself in your comment), this is, "citation of the preprint=citation of the journal version?"
    – Predacon
    Aug 21, 2013 at 8:39
  • Your comment to Peter Johnson's answers seems to answer my comment; you should probably have given this context in your original question. To write "count as" did not answer it: in some respect the preprint citation may "count as" the article citations, in some other they may not. Aug 21, 2013 at 10:53
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    The only person who can answer this question is the person asking for the number of citations. Yes, they count, and no, they don't, depending on who's asking.
    – JeffE
    Aug 21, 2013 at 13:18
  • Is there any reason why someone would deliberately not want to count citations made before formal publication? Counting citations is a little silly in itself, and once you're doing something silly I can certainly imagine bureaucrats imposing even sillier rules about precisely how to do it, but I can't think of any good reason why a preprint citation shouldn't mean just as much as a paper citation. Am I overlooking anything? Aug 21, 2013 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


The answer depends on what you mean by "count". If we consider whether they should be counted as citations: yes definitely. Afer all, the citations reflect how your science is read and then cited by others. It is then clear that these "count".

A problem occurs when using the citation counts provided by different services such as Researcher ID through Web of Science. Then it is not certain that the "in press" version is counted. I, for example have papers where in press citations exist. In Web of Science, I can actually see them but the connection is not automatically done so I would have to add them to the appropriate paper count manually. I know it is possible to write to Web Of Science and have references corrected or coupled. I, for example have another paper that occurs in four posts because people have written the wrong volume number, the wrong year of publication etc. Since I am senior and these extra citations are not critical to me I have not tried to get them corrected but they can of course be more important in an early career case.

Other services such as Google Scholar may work differently. I have opted for providing measures from services to which I can link and thereby have others verify my numbers. So in the end this becomes a technical problem, the citations certainly count.

  • Thanks. So, if you had to report to some instance the number of citations of a paper, would you split those for the preprint and those for the journal version or just report the journal version's?
    – Predacon
    Aug 21, 2013 at 9:25
  • I would add them but it is always possible to add, for example, "(x cited as in pres)" after the number if you want to. The point is as long as the total reflects reality (how many times your paper is cited) it is fine. It is not ok if the total cannot be verified. I have had references dissappear from ISI when they have done something to the database so these services are not perfect. Aug 21, 2013 at 9:34

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