I am preparing a conference paper. I have been looking for references for a specific topic related to my research. I have not found any that were not written by current/former members or my research lab. How common is it and how acceptable is it to submit a paper where most or all of the references were written by the same group of authors?

In other words, my adviser is an author for most/all of them with a subset of his students.

  • Are you sure that you are working on something really scientific? I mean I'm somewhat pessimistic but it's not a really good sign to find out the only one that does research on your topic is your adviser or his/her former students. Also, in my opinion a paper that only has self-citations (I count a citation as self-citation even if the alleged paper has just one common author with the current article) is probably bogus... Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 18:45
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    @AloneProgrammer While I find your response intuitive, I also find it close-minded. Are conventional solutions to a problem always the best ones? I would say not always. I am more concerned with solving the problem than gaining approval from the academic community.
    – Revan
    Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 19:19
  • I understand, but I already said that I'm really pessimistic about problems, so my opinion might not be true generally and that's the reason why I put the comment instead of writing an answer. Commented Nov 12, 2019 at 19:22
  • @AloneProgrammer What if the research was published in leading journals whose peer reviewers care about novelty and significance?
    – Laakeri
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 6:53
  • @Laakeri I don't care if it is published in Nature or Science or whatever elite journal. A paper published in a leading journal doesn't mean necessarily everything in it is a god given fact. There are lots of excellent papers published in leading journals and there are lots of garbage papers also published in leading journals. So, you should check yourself to see if paper makes sense or not instead of relying on reviewers or reputation of the leading journal. Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 18:48

3 Answers 3


If your work is either very new or very esoteric, then I don't see that this would be unusual. However, for a more general topic there might be some issues. When I finished my dissertation the topic wasn't new, but it was very esoteric. I knew of only two universities in the world where there was interest in the problem and only about a half dozen people interested. All were either professors or students at those two institutions.

Research is very specialized and often balkanized. So, if there are, in fact, few or no other papers then the situation is determined by the facts and is therefore acceptable. Publishing may spread interest and the "problem", if any, will disappear in time.

Make sure your search was thorough, of course. It wouldn't do to be informed of a wide body of work that you missed.

  • This answered my question perfectly. Thanks!
    – Revan
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 16:01

Have you tried looking for references in other languages? Finding one even if loosely related can cover for diversity. Other than that, if you dont find any then there is no problem.

Actually it is a good strategy because you are both honoring the original researchers on the field... and they can't exactly disagree with their own papers (this is not a joke, its an actual tip given around. To try and include a paper in your references from the teacher/teachers on your PHD that may be your supervisors/exam comitee ).


In my field, computer science, this can be fine depending on circumstances.

E.g. it can be fine if you're in a new area.

Do your citations cite anyone outside the group? They may be a good place to find more citations.

Also make sure you've tried the 'related articles' feature on Google Scholar.

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