I am working on submitting an abstract to a conference. My research is an extension of other published research (paper B) at my university. In the abstract, I do have a short summary of paper B since it is needed to understand what I've done. Should I cite paper B in my abstract?

Paper B's author is listed as a co-author of my abstract, since they do participate in my research.

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    Depends on the journal/conference rules. Check if other/past papers had abstract level citations.
    – quantacad
    Dec 10, 2023 at 21:51
  • What field is this? Is it a conference that publishes entire papers, or just a program with abstracts?
    – Anyon
    Dec 10, 2023 at 21:54
  • @Anyon, Medical field and here we submit an abstract for presentation at the conference. They don't publish entire papers. Dec 10, 2023 at 22:06
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    @quantacad it isn't state in the rules. They do however have some examples and those doesn't contain citations. Dec 10, 2023 at 22:08

2 Answers 2


I think there is already a reasonable answer, but I wanted to add my own experience in the medical field. I don't think this is quite as straightforward as @Buffy makes it out to be.

It is not standard practice, even for standalone abstracts, to have citations in medicine. It isn't entirely uncommon though... Depending on where you are submitting your abstract, the rules vary. Some conferences will explicitly say you should not have citations in the abstract - no matter what. Some will say you can. Most (smaller) conferences do not mention it but the general expectation is that there will be no citations. This expectation exists with the understanding that there will be uncited background info in the abstract. Whatever you opinions are about this, it is what it is.

Since your conference doesn't specify, I think you should try to include a citation. It is best practice and it increases visibility of the other paper. You can do this either with a normal, full citation at the end, or with some sort of abbreviated in-text citation. Whether or not they accept this depends on how strict the rules are (this usually directly correlates with how large/well-respected/well-run of a conference it is). I have never had an issue including citations if they are not explicitly prohibited though.

If they don't like it (which would be surprising), include the citation on the poster. In that case, I would also consider rewriting your abstract to not rely so heavily on your prior work. You can still mention it, but save the details for the poster and briefly state "we did x, y, z prior work in previously published paper A" and move on.

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    I think this is a good answer and agrees with my experience. I would recommend using the "abbreviated in-text citation" format where citations are non-standard.
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 11, 2023 at 21:54

Yes, you need to cite whatever you use, whether quoting or summarizing. Otherwise you open yourself to possible charges of plagiarism (or self-plagiarism). An informal citation might be enough, but you should attribute the ideas of others to themselves.

This would be especially true if it is possible that the abstract could appear alone without the rest of the paper.

When in doubt, cite. Make the context clear.

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    This is very field- and conference-dependent — and “Otherwise you open yourself to possible charges of plagiarism” is certainly not always true. In plenty of conferences I’ve known, abstracts are often short and informal, and don’t carry any expectation of being self-contained or thoroughly referenced. Completely agree with your 2nd and 3rd paragraph, though.
    – PLL
    Dec 11, 2023 at 11:41
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    Plagarism is to wrongly attribute previously published ideas and contents as one's own and new. One can avoid that without giving a technical citation, for example, by saying that "prior research has..." or "We extend a framework previously introduced by Buffy et al.". Dec 11, 2023 at 11:47
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    Buffy: Obviously I don’t mean it’s OK to claim others’ work as one’s own! I mean things like @lighthousekeeper’s example, “Prior research has shown X… We show Y.” , which carries no suggestion that the prior work is the writer’s own (rather the contrary). In a more detailed context, I’d expect citations, both to back up the assertion and give credit appropriately. But in a brief abstract, mentioning background work without thorough attribution seems very normal, and certainly not plagiarism — I’d think of a brief attribution there as helpful, but by no means obligatory.
    – PLL
    Dec 11, 2023 at 17:08
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    Another vote for context dependence. In my field it would be unusual to include any citations in a conference abstract, and even oral papers and posters will usually only include a handful of the most critical references. The expectation is that much of what is presented is preliminary or in progress, and thorough referencing will be included with the published paper or thesis. I expect conference abstracts have less weight/impact in fields where this is the norm than in ones that expect citations.
    – Tyler
    Dec 11, 2023 at 21:28
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    An abstract like this is more like an 'ad' for your talk/poster, it's not really a stand-alone work and should not be cited by anyone who hasn't attended the actual talk/poster any more than you would cite a book that you only know the title and table of contents from. It's not typical to provide citations in these abstracts, even if OP may have a special case where it's more appropriate.
    – Bryan Krause
    Dec 11, 2023 at 21:56

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