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I am writing a research proposal for a PhD, and I am referring to my earlier research, which is published in a scientific journal. Should I cite myself? It feels a little preposterous, but I can imagine it could be good to provide the full reference. I do provide it in my CV as well. An additional reason I thought it would be good to cite my paper is because I am making the claim that it built on the work of a professor from the department I am applying to, and I figured providing a reference - with DOI - to my paper would be the best way to back that claim up.

Thank you in advance for the advice, I really appreciate it.

  • Yeah sure. You self-cite from paper to paper also. And for grant proposals. – guest Jan 22 at 0:31
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    Why not? If you find it 'preposterous' to cite yourself, you have trouble making a career ... – Walter Jan 23 at 0:56
  • Well, I understand why one would cite oneself if one is a practicing scholar. But as an aspiring scholar, I thought maybe it would come off a little self-important. – David Jan 23 at 9:56
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Yes, you should cite all relevant research: When conducting research projects that extend over multiple papers it is not unusual to want to refer to your past published papers on the topic. These should be treated just as with other relevant literature ---i.e., if they are relevant then they should be cited properly.

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    On a related note, failure to cite it can be plagiarism. And yes, strangely you can plagiarize yourself. – Michael W. Jan 22 at 22:40
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In general you cite yourself just as you would any other person. Failing to do so, while repeating earlier things you have published, leads to a charge of self-plagiarism. It is an odd concept, but is treated seriously.

Ordinary plagiarism is when you claim the work of another as your own. Self plagiarism is a bit different, of course.

But avoiding both types of plagiarism via proper citation has the purpose of placing a work of scholarship within its complete context. People reading a new paper want to know what it is based on, whether by that author or another. Having the citation lets a reader go back to that context (and possible further citations).

So, while this isn't an actual publication you are developing, the same rules should apply. The reader wants/needs the context.

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    I agree with everything here, but I'm not sure it's the right emphasis. In this case, it's overwhelmingly advantageous for the asker's proposal to establish that they're already a published expert in the field. Not citing the earlier paper would simply be shooting oneself in the foot. (Which, yes, would be an unlawful discharge of a firearm, but the reason you don't shoot yourself in the foot is that it frickin' hurts.) – David Richerby Jan 22 at 13:52
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    @DavidRicherby, never tried it so I'll take your statement about the pain as "likely valid". Legality might vary with jurisdiction, I suppose. – Buffy Jan 22 at 13:59
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As others suggest, you can and should cite yourself. But, more importantly, you should clarify this - not via the citation but in the proposal text itself. That is:

  • Explain what kind of research you were doing before, what you motivation was, what limited your scope (if anything) etc.
  • Explain how your proposed Ph.D. research continues your previous work - as such, i.e. don't just say "It was established in [3] that bars can be frobnicated; I propose to extend this result to baz" - where [3] is your own paper.
  • Explain how your proposed Ph.D. research goes in a different direction / does not continue your previous work.

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