As a scientific journal reviewer, how can I deal with a manuscript where the authors cited their own works extensively (14 times) in the manuscript?

  • 42
    I don't think you can determine excessive self-citation just by counting.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 11:24
  • 2
    Are the citations relevant? Perhaps the field is small and a lot of the work is done by a few people? I.e. a large portion by the author themself.
    – Felix B.
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 11:25
  • 3
    Both referees raised this point that unnecessary self citation is not accepted. However, the authors did not address this concern appropriately.
    – David
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 11:29
  • 9
    then you could state in the review, that you don't see how the introduction is relevant to this work (explain or cut it) and point out the missing citations to other work done previously in this field.
    – Felix B.
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 11:29
  • 9
    @David Your role as reviewer is to assess the paper in front of you not police metrics. Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 7:59

3 Answers 3


Present clear arguments in your review that describe which self-citations are irrelevant and why you argue that this is the case. Assuming that this is a reputable journal, this forces the author to either remove these citations or provide evidence of their importance in their rebuttal.

However, note that, as mentioned in the comments, the number of self-citations is not an indicator of whether they are appropriate or not. If the author has worked on related topics a lot, then it may well be appropriate to provide all these references. If this is the case, but you nevertheless want to argue that there is an unfair balance between self-citations and citations of other relevant publications, mention this in your review and provide examples of important papers that are missing.

  • 14
    You can also point out other works that should have been cited by the authors, though that isn't necessarily damning either. Context is required.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 12:25

There are a lot of works done previously in the field. However, the authors only cited their own work and include some irrelevant text in the introduction in order to cite their own work.

If this is the case, you're accusing the authors of misconduct. Therefore write all your concerns into the confidential-to-editor box, and let the editor handle it.

  • 4
    Actually, one doesn't need to cite all works done previously in the field. It is a question of relevance to the current paper and only that. It may be misconduct, even if only sloppiness, or it may not. But mentioning such, rather than a accusation, is fine.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 24, 2023 at 14:39
  • @Buffy yes, but the key part is "include some irrelevant text in the introduction in order to cite their own work".
    – Allure
    Commented Dec 4, 2023 at 1:37

You could just mention as a side comment in the review that the number of self-citations might be interpreted by some as a reflection of the vanity of the author and/or an attempt to game citation metrics, and that in either case it may be in the author's self-interest to investigate which self-citations might be removed from the citation list without any substantive loss to the manuscript.

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