I published a paper on a statistical topic after my bachelors.

Currently I am doing my masters thesis and I would like to cite/use my own paper in it.

However, I did not inform my supervisor before that I already had a publication in a similar field of my thesis when I started, because I did not expect it to be directly relevant then. However, now I would like to use this paper.

Is it OK to cite my own paper in my thesis? Will the supervisor be OK with it, despite I did not inform him about my previous work when starting the thesis with him?


  • 11
    Will the supervisor be OK with it? Ask him.
    – enthu
    Oct 11, 2014 at 11:46
  • @EnthusiasticStudent Your comment "Ask him." is really useless because that is why I posted the question. Also, my case is more specific than the answer you cited.
    – emcor
    Oct 11, 2014 at 12:14
  • 10
    @emcor his answer is the best anyone can give. The only person who can answer those questions for you is your supervisor. Oct 11, 2014 at 12:30
  • 2
    @emcor Your supervisor is the only one who can give you precise advise; at least nobody here knows you and your publications and your special conditions. Because he is familiar with you, has read your papers and publications, will read your thesis report, and more important he knows the regulation of the university you are studying in. That is why I posted that comment. Talk to your advisor and you will see that was the most useful answer you have received.
    – enthu
    Oct 11, 2014 at 12:54
  • 2
    Is your supervisor supposed to approve every citation you include in your thesis? I've never heard of such a practice before.
    – Sverre
    Oct 11, 2014 at 15:47

2 Answers 2


I don't see why your supervisor would be concerned about it, especially if it is relevant for your current research. But, to be sure, let them know about your previous work and emphasise how it is relevant (and its importance) to your current work.

When you use your paper, make sure that you cite it as you would any paper.

  • Hi, thanks. How should I best let my supervisor know? If I write a separate email it might look too important, rather I would briefly mention it in a general meeting? I had to send a thesis proposal with relevant papers to my supervisor at beginning, and my publication was not in it, as it represented a rather special case but now I would like to use it.
    – emcor
    Oct 11, 2014 at 11:34
  • Perhaps, if discussing several important papers, include your paper amongst them - stating that it is yours, but with the emphasis on how it will benefit the research.
    – user21984
    Oct 11, 2014 at 11:36
  • 1
    @emcor I think you are overthinking it. Just tell him using whatever is your main way of communication, or just "I am applying this method to the analysis, I wrote a paper about it BTW".
    – Davidmh
    Oct 11, 2014 at 21:35

Practiced in moderation, self-citation is natural, healthy, and ethical. There are typical two reasons why excessive self-citation can become problematic:

  1. It often indicates a person who is unaware of the related work being done by the rest of the community.
  2. Self-citation can be abused to falsely inflate one's perceived importance and citation metrics.

A healthy line of research, however, will often produce a non-trivial fraction of self-citation in each paper because your old work is related to your new work. In fact, it would be unethical to not self-cite when citation is appropriate.

A simple guiding principle for approaching the question is this: if somebody else besides you had written the paper, would you want to cite it? If the answer is yes, then you should cite the paper. There isn't even any particular reason you need to mention it to your supervisor, though it would probably be fun and enjoyable for you to mention in passing, "Hey, and it turns out this other paper I wrote was actually useful enough to cite!"

Now as to whether you can include your other paper as part of your thesis, this is a very different question. The first question is: why would you want to do so, if a citation will suffice? If you've done a Masters' Thesis worth of work excluding this other paper, there is no reason to need to include it. If you haven't, then that is when you need to have a discussion with your supervisor, because the answer will depend on the policies and practices of your particular department.

  • A citation in a thesis does not count in bibliometrics, so you cannot possibly inflate your CV with it; and not many people read it, so you are not giving it a lot of publicity. Furthermore, someone is going to grade it, and having published a paper in your Bachelor is quite impressive.
    – Davidmh
    Oct 11, 2014 at 21:37
  • Actually, what exactly gets counted depends on whose bibliometrics: given the number of different competing databases, the variation in what "counts" from field to field, and the ongoing debates on bibliometrics in the internet age, there is no single clear gold standard at this point. Regardless, my answer was intended to address the general issue self-citation, from which the answer to the specific dilemma comes clear. And yes, undergrads who publish are awesome.
    – jakebeal
    Oct 11, 2014 at 21:44

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