I am a PhD student in physics. A few months ago, I submitted a paper (which has meanwhile been accepted, but not yet published). The preprint is on arXiv.

Now, I saw that a few days ago, another manuscript, from a different group, has appeared on the arXiv, and I think there are large parallels. It's not that my work would dramatically alter the interpretation of their conclusions, but I think it would have been appropriate to link the works.

They also have a very broad 'catchy' title on their paper to make it sound spectacular and it seems to me that this title also relates to my work.

I'm not really suspecting conscious malice from the authors or so. But I wonder if I should send one of the authors a link to my paper, or if this is frowned upon.

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    Does "there are large parallels" mean "their paper basically says the same as mine, give or take a few details", "we solve the same problem in similar ways", "we solve similar problems in the same way" or "(part of) the work done in one paper is duplicated in the other, but they ultimately end up going in different directions to solve different problems"?
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 12:06
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    @NotThatGuy the same phenomenon is observed in a different, but related system.
    – Wouter
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 12:09
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    PhD student in physics here. The answers below (largely by nonphysicists) seem to me to be far too cautious. I see exactly this kind of interaction play out all the time, it's one of the things arXiv is for. Tons and tons of papers have things like "Note added: during the preparation of this work, Ref. [38] appeared, discussing similar topics."
    – knzhou
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 4:21
  • A bigger opportunity for you here is to "network" with this group, let them know you work in similar areas, and that you can potentially collaborate in the future. Whether they cite your paper or not is up to them, and is a minor issue in the larger scheme of things.
    – tallharish
    Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 17:11

5 Answers 5


Emailing them could be acceptable -- and I would even say it should be encouraged! -- but you have to tread very carefully. If you write an email like

Hey Dr. Jones,

I saw your newest paper on arXiv and I noticed you didn't cite [Wouter et al, 2020], do you think you can post an update and cite me?


this would come across very poorly, and in general the above email would be socially unacceptable.

Instead, you could follow the following steps:

  1. Read the paper carefully to find how it relates. It is likely that you, as an author of the other paper, are overestimating the overlap. There still may be some important overlaps, and reading it carefully will allow you to narrow down on the precise similarities.

    For example, you mentioned that their broad and 'catchy' title overlaps with your paper, but if the actual material does not overlap, then the overlap in the title is probably superficial and doesn't require a citation here.

  2. Once you understand the scope of the overlap, consider how many papers there are in this topic. Is this a topic with dozens of papers every year, in both high-quality venues and low-quality venues or arXiv? Or are both of your papers the only ones even addressing this topic? In the former case, I would expect that citing you is wrong (they should instead cite one of the more classic or well-known examples in the literature); in the latter case, I think they should cite you (although given that they didn't, they probably aren't aware of your paper).

At this point there are two cases: either you have determined that there is overlap and they should consider citing you, or you have determined that it's probably fine that they didn't cite you. If you still think they should cite you, then you can proceed to the next steps:

  1. See if your advisor or a senior colleague knows this group, and can email them instead. It would be far better to get an email from someone they know about this, rather than some PhD student they haven't heard of.

  2. Finally, as a last resort, write the email yourself. But keep the email professional and careful.

    • Don't say that they should cite you; do say they might be interested in your recent work.

    • Do assume that the work was done completely in parallel (it probably was).

    • Don't overstate the overlap or relevance of your work.

    • Don't assert that they have an obligation to be aware of your work; the literature is usually extremely vast, and it is hard to keep up with everything, especially arXiv papers with 0 citations posted a few months ago.

    • If there is another paper, other than yours, that is more representative of the line of work that your paper represents, which they didn't cite, suggest that work instead. And maybe in that case, don't mention your paper at all.

    • Above all, focus on your interest in their work; state that you saw their work and found it interesting; you can even ask questions, see if they have tried method X or considered question Y. Best case scenario, this could be an opportunity for future collaboration (or you could be a postdoc in the group later, etc.)

I think if you follow the above steps and guidelines, the email should be OK. And if they really should cite you, hopefully this diplomatic approach will cause them to do the right thing (the scientifically honest thing) by citing you.

If you decide not to write an email, then what you can do instead is cite their work in the future. Or meet them at a conference. These are more organic ways for awareness across research groups to develop.

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    There's no need to overthink the relationship between the papers. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 0:18
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    @AnonymousPhysicist I don't see the danger of overthinking. If it is truly related, one should read it anyway; and if one is not sure, then one must read it to understand the relationship. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 0:35
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    +1 regards future collaboration. Make sure any action you take supports creating a positive relationship.vthis is worth way more to you, them and physics.
    – Keith
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 23:20
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    Excellent answer! I would emphasize that you should look at this as an opportunity to develop a potential future collaborator. Write your email with that goal in mind. Usually you will have a few friendly low stakes interactions with someone before you do any real scientific collaboration, so this is a chance to do that. And if it's appropriate to add a citation to their paper as you are revising your own, you might want to do that too. Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 10:05
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    A good way to demonstrate your interest in their work is to ask a question about their paper. Since the work is closely related to yours, it should be easy to come up with an insightful question that might start a conversation. Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 10:07

I would think that a direct request like that isn't likely to be well received. It is a kind of trolling (in the older sense of the word: Trolling for compliments, Trolling for citations).

But if you want to send the paper and point out that "you may find it relevant to your own work", then it has a completely different tone to it.

And introducing yourself to people with similar interests using your paper as a calling card is useful to do and may result in collaboration in the future.

But a direct request to cite? No. They wrote their paper without it. Why would they simply want to cite it? No.

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    You may find it relevant to your own work This is just academese for "please cite me" :) But I do agree with your answer. Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 22:55
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    @6005, well done young grasshopper. You are learning well.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 7, 2020 at 23:03
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    A genuine request to an expert for what you actually want is the opposite of trolling. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 0:11
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    @Buffy: It precedes the internet. --- FYI, "I was trolling for a compliment" appears on p. 113 (lines 2-3) of Days and nights of salmon fishing in the River Tweed by William Scrope (1885). Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 11:55
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    @DaveLRenfro, I'm old, but not that old.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 12:01

I think you can be straightforward with highlighting your work - I tend to send emails about related works to authors of new preprints on arxiv (most of the time it is not my personal work I suggest to have a look at, but other people's work).

It is a bit embarrassing to forget to cite a highly relevant paper, so I usually appreciate this type of suggestions if I receive such emails. Adding another citation to a paper is rather easy, and getting an email with suggestions means someone was reading your work and paying attention. Thus, as people mention, make sure that you clearly show that you read the paper.


I don't agree with the other answers. First, one citation is not worth much. The main reason not to ask for citations is that it isn't worth the effort. To get value out of citations as a PhD student, you need hundreds. Later in your career, you need thousands. If you send out targeted emails requesting citations, you would have to send tens of thousands of customized messages to make a difference in your career. That's impractical.

Second, A request for a citation from a student would not come across "poorly" or as a "troll." It would come across as inexperienced behavior which would be normal for a student.

I agree with 6005: "Don't say that they should cite you; do say they might be interested in your recent work." Just state that and briefly state the topic of your work. Other academics will already know you would like to be cited, because in today's metric-driven world everybody would like to be cited.

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    What kind of area gives you hundreds of citations as a PhD student when the impact factor of a good journal is between 2 or 5? Certainly it is not physics. I am glad for every citation and I am tenure-track faculty. In applied math the IF is commonly 1 or 2. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 7:54
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    @AnonymousPhysicist I do not believe this site catters only exceptional academics in US R1 universities. Certainly, the OP may feel a citation might help him. Unless you want to call most researchers I know "losers", because they are elsewhere by an order magnitude. The truth is that most researchers are average even those making a lifelong career. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 8:03
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    My well-known (in our area) postdoc advisor and a project leader at a very good UK university has 1600 citations on Google Scholar. He is way above average. The other leader of the project from a different UK University 1700. I stress that it is G. Scholar, the number in web of science will be much smaller. The retired professor from the same uni has 8400 but he is a sort of a superstar. The full professor department leader 3700. Again an internetaional research star. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 8:11
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    @AnonymousPhysicist These numbers are plain impossible in most areas of applied physics and engineering. Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 9:56
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    I don't agree with @AnonymousPhysicist. 1 citation in a paper that subsequently gets 100 citations over its lifetime (and therefore has been seen by maybe 10,000 people), can lead to millions of people seeing the paper that might not otherwise have seen it. 100 citations is typical of a good paper in my opinion. In my field I would say that 10 citations per year is good, so in fact a good paper might even be cited 500 times in a lifetime.
    – Nik
    Commented Apr 8, 2020 at 20:45

You could be the next victim of a plagiaristic group - the same as Grigory Perelman

I don't think you should ask for anything. Carefully compare papers and possibly they could be a plagiaristic "predator authors group". They search for preprints which were not yet officially published and kill their publications by publishing the same material first. Grigory Perelman was a target of one Chinese plagiaristic group and luckily he was already famous enough to withstand such attacks on his beautiful scientific works. But this episode with Chinese mathematicians really hurt Grigory's soul as much as he does not want to do math anymore because of such situations.

Do not ask and do not contact plagiarists in any way. Instead contact your publisher as fast as possible. Because the sooner you draw attention to criminal scientific group, the faster they would drop their plagiaristic papers to not get shamed.

The worst possible thing that could happen is if plagiarists will cite you. Like those who were citing G. Perelman while printing his own works. When they cite you, they create a backdoor for walking away prompting that they had a "collaboration".


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