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I'm writing some report, and at a certain point I give an example by citation. The citation format is such that you don't see any names (e.g. "[123]") without visiting the bibliography; or maybe it's just initials. And I wasn't the only author. I would like to "warn" my readers to take the citation with a grain of salt, as I am relying on what is at least partly, if not mostly, my own perspective or my own arguments elsewhere. At the same time, I don't want it to sound like I'm boasting about being an author; nor that I'm making a stronger pitch of the cited paper; nor that I'm disparaging it somehow.

What's a good way to phrase this limite-caveat/weak-warning?

Note:

  • I'm currently writing alone, am not using the first-person voice at all, and have just a handful third-person "it is the author's opinion that" and similar expressions.
  • I can't presume to individually take the credit for the work in [123] which was a group effort.
  • Could you write it like "we did this in [123]"? – user105967 Mar 25 at 14:13
  • @Guest: The "we" in [123] is myself and some others; but what I'm writing now is just me. – einpoklum Mar 25 at 14:19
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    The citation format is such that you don't see any names — So don't do that. One simple fix (which I strongly recommend for other reasons) is to give people explicit credit in the text. "The previous best algorithm for factoring roosters, discovered independently by Knuth [42] and Turing [222], was recently surpassed by Rozenberg [123]." – JeffE Mar 25 at 14:36
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    Seconding @JeffE’s comment — phrasing references so that no names are visible at the point of citation is always unfriendly to the reader, worries about self-citation aside! Except under exceptionally tight space constraints, there’s no reason ever to write just “as shown in [2]” — even when journal style specifies number-only references, you can write “as shown by Smith [2]”, or similar. (I like to believe that number-only reference formats were originally intended to be used this way, not the nameless way.) – PLL Mar 25 at 21:31
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    @einpoklum So you have an opportunity to stick out by making your papers more readable! – JeffE Mar 26 at 12:48
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"In previous work [1-3] the author showed that ..." or "We have recently shown that ... [1-3]"

With phrases like that I never had a complaint from a peer-reviewer.

  • The wording suggests that in [123], I did all the work and the other authors didn't really contribute much. – einpoklum Mar 25 at 15:19
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    It is easy enough to use the variation: "In previous work [1-3] the author, et. al., showed that ..." – Buffy Mar 25 at 15:48
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I doubt that you need to do anything at all that you wouldn't do for any other paper or author. I think self-citation is really only an issue when it is overdone and/or no one else agrees with you.

But if they (hopefully) believe what you are writing at present, they don't need to be "warned" that you also wrote something similar or supporting in the past.

If you normally say "Smith in [3] says,..." and you are Jones, then you can say "Jones in [5] implies..." or similar. There are other answer/comments here that give other suggestions if you really think you need to be more specific.

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  • One of the authors, together with others, has done something of note in [123].

  • A, B and C also claim this and that [123].

That said, you can probably leave the warning off the paper. Anyone interested in the claim will check the supporting source for credibility, or at least they ought to. If you do not believe in the claim, qualify the claim as is relevant for how credible you think it is: Call it a conjecture or guess, write that the claim has been suggested or is worth investigating, or whatever you feel is true. Then write that the other paper (also) supports the claim.

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I would like to "warn" my readers to take the citation with a grain of salt, as I am relying on what is at least partly, if not mostly, my own perspective or my own arguments elsewhere.

Unless there’s something specific about the context that you’re not telling us that makes this a good idea, in general I see no need for such a warning. Your readers are capable of thinking for themselves. They will look at the citation, see what it says, think about it (taking various pieces of information into account, including the knowledge of who wrote it), and decide if they agree with it. The fact that it’s a self-citation is basically irrelevant from the point of view of the way you should be presenting things. Treat it as a citation to any other work by any other person.

At the same time, I don't want it to sound like I'm boasting about being an author; nor that I'm making a stronger pitch of the cited paper; nor that I'm disparaging it somehow.

Those are somewhat valid concerns, but at the end of the day again my recommendation is to write whatever you would write if the cited paper was written by anyone else: if it deserves to be praised, praise it, if it deserves to be disparaged, disparage it, and if you think it should be referred to using a neutral tone, then mention it in a neutral tone. If you are acting in good faith and aren’t saying something that’s obviously over the top and ego-driven, reasonable people will not find fault with what you wrote.

  • If you're saying that there is already some work on a subject, but it's just your (and your collaborators') work, it's different than saying that there's community interest, for example. – einpoklum Mar 25 at 21:29
  • @einpoklum agreed. – Dan Romik Mar 25 at 21:54
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My first thought would be to cite in the style "Smith et al. [123] discovered" or similar as mentioned in the comments above, so that it is clear who wrote the paper if the work is significant.

But realistically if the paper you are concerned about citing was published in a peer reviewed journal you don't need anyone to take it with a grain of salt because a group of your professional peers reviewed it and said it was acceptable.

If you really want to acknowledge that you are building off the reasoning in that paper say something along the lines of "as suggested by Smith et al. [123]" or "this is similar to what the author reasoned when working with Smith et al. [123]".

Bottom line is that if the source you are citing is peer reviewed, that means that it is accepted in the body of work for your field and you should be able to cite it without caveats, barring obviously the case where you blast a paper for some fallacy (in that case you should acknowledge your part, and why you changed your mind).

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