Some time ago, I and another person submitted a paper to a conference. It has not yet been accepted. In my master's I want to express that the results of my algorithm (included in my thesis) have been compared to those of another algorithm in the submitted paper. In other words the derivation and results of my algorithm are included both in the thesis and the paper.

How do I cite the paper?

I know this question has been asked many times but I were not able to find previous answers entirely reflecting my situation. Most importantly, the review process of the conference is double-blind and I am afraid that by specifying the name of the conference in my master's thesis, I am jeopardizing the anonymity.

But if I cannot mention to which conference it is submitted, very little of the actual bibtex entry remains. I suspect that because of this it best to simply cite it as @unpublished with a note specifying the status.

I hope someone can confirm this for me or provide a better alternative. I simply do not want to make a fool of myself.


I eventually got around to speaking to my supervisor and we agreed that a citation of the form

Author A, Author B (Me), ... Title Of Paper, Submitted, 2020

was appropriate. I reference this citation in the overview of my thesis and mention that parts of my work have been submitted to an international conference. As Buffy points out, some form of citation is absolutely required to avoid self-plagiarism. By citing myself I clearly indicate that I revisit material that is also submitted in a paper.

I included the title of the submitted paper in the citation. Necessarily this puts anonymity at risk. The theses submitted to my university will be published. As its review process is shorter, we expect the thesis to be available before the paper is accepted. Therefore it is theoretically possible that the reviewers could find my thesis and cross-reference the title of the paper I cite to the paper submitted to the conference. However, we concluded that this is quite an unrealistic scenario.

Note that the name of the conference submitted to is left out. This is done primarily as the actual conference is, for me, unimportant (until it is potentially accepted). What matters is that I have contributed material to a paper, which reflects well on my thesis.

If you are more profiled than I, perhaps you must take further steps to anonymize the citation such that it cannot be cross-referenced to the paper. If so I would suggest you confer with your supervisor.

  • This might depend on how public the thesis will be in the short term.
    – Buffy
    Jun 8, 2020 at 12:22
  • 1
    Related: academia.stackexchange.com/q/12101/68109
    – GoodDeeds
    Jun 8, 2020 at 12:28
  • How you cite it is probably less important than that you do cite it to avoid possible self-plagiarism charges.
    – Buffy
    Jun 8, 2020 at 12:32

1 Answer 1


Perhaps you can use time to your advantage here and update a citation as you learn more. But submitted, not yet published is a better description than simply unpublished which can give the impression that it won't be published.

But if the thesis itself will only be seen internally at the university until the decision is made by the conference, then it might be safe enough to just give the full citation. And, if it is accepted you would probably want to update it in any case to indicate that fact.

I think you understand already that citation isn't optional and must be done, but only the form of citation is being addressed here. Above all else, avoid self plagiarism.

  • On the question of avoiding self-plagiarism: Would something of the form "The results of algorithm X (my algorithm) along with competing algorithm Y are submitted to a large international conference" be accurate?. In this way I explicitly state that the algorithm and results in the thesis and paper are one and the same.
    – Mikal
    Jun 8, 2020 at 12:41
  • """I think you understand already that citation isn't an option, but only the form of citation is being addressed here. Above all else, avoid self plagiarism. """ I'm not sure I follow
    – Mikal
    Jun 8, 2020 at 12:43
  • 1
    Your statements imply that you already know that you need to cite it somehow. It was a message to others, actually, that avoiding the citation altogether would be an ethical issue. Questions and answers here live on for a long time and, in the best case, are useful to future readers as well as the the OP (original poster). That was my only intent. Your formulation is pretty good, but should include that the submission was by yourself. But the title of the work would be better if you can include it. Again, the visibility of the thesis might be an issue.
    – Buffy
    Jun 8, 2020 at 12:55
  • I suspect the OP interpreted "isn't an option" to mean "isn't allowed". Perhaps "isn't optional" would have been clearer. Jun 8, 2020 at 16:03
  • @AndreasBlass, Thanks. I see it now. Fixed
    – Buffy
    Jun 8, 2020 at 16:39

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