Often, as soon as I submit a pre-submission paper on the arxiv, I receive a couple of emails from other researchers pointing out their previous relevant work, which in their words is connected with mine and deserve citations.

Sometimes, it happens that their work is really connected with my work, and perhaps even anticipating it. For some reason I was not aware of that, my fault. In these cases, I usually add the citation and even refer to the work in a more extensive way.

However, most of the emails just point to works that are indeed on the same topic, perhaps also very important works in the field, but which are not even similar nor related to my work. In this cases, I really don't know what to do. I could inflate the reference of the paper, giving credits to papers which really did not contribute in any way to my work. Or I could just ignore it, with the hope that one of the authors of that papers will not end up to be one of my referees...

What is the common practice in this cases?

(see also this question for another point of view)

  • 4
    I would ignore. The worst is when an editor ask you to include some/all of his/her relevant papers. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:07
  • 3
    I would include, unless truly unrelated. I simply don't see any harm in "inflating" references. On the contrary, it just helps the reader to know the literature. Again, assuming there is relevance to your work. My experience is opposite coincidentally: I find many authors treating their reference with extreme stinginess, as if they lose something by citing others.
    – Dilworth
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 15:35

2 Answers 2


If you get requests for citations to irrelevant publications, just ignore them. Seriously, that's all you need to do. I get suggestions/requests for citations all the time. Sometimes they are relevant things that I overlooked (in which case, I add them), but usually they are not.

I don't even usually bother writing back to the people sending the requests. It's rude of them to ask you to cite their irrelevant work, and so I feel I am under no obligation to write back with a polite demurral. The people grubbing around for these citations are extremely unlikely to be leaders in the field (the kind of people who might makes things difficult for you if they think you are being rude to them); the real leaders do not need to waste their time drumming up undeserved citations.

  • 3
    I agree. But what if these people end up to be a referee? I just want to have a "friendly" and professional relation with competitors, and I don't want to have to pay consequences because in their opinion they deserved a citation.
    – sintetico
    Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 12:54
  • @sintetico: That problem has never (so far as I know) come up for me. Hopefully, there are enough people in your field that you shouldn't need to worry about it.
    – Buzz
    Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 13:11
  • 4
    But what if these people end up to be a referee? — Then in your response to the referee report, you write "We have decided not to add the citations requested by referee #2, as we do not see any direct relevance to our work." And then you let the editor handle it.
    – JeffE
    Commented Aug 15, 2015 at 22:32
  • @JeffE: How would you know the referee who recommended rejection is the one who told you earlier to include their work?
    – user111388
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 18:52
  • @user111388 Referees typically include both their recommendations to the editor and their comments to the author in the same report.
    – JeffE
    Commented Jun 13, 2020 at 22:29

Opinions vary, but I think it is very important to acknowledge prior art, that is, priority. To leave important prior (strongly related) work out of a bibliography is to communicate the idea that there was no prior work. Indeed, one can "cultivate" lack of references to one's competitors by carefully not looking at their work, thus, seemingly having no obligation to cite them (or otherwise acknowledge their existence!?!) But this is inappropriate, as it would convey a false impression to your readers, as well as being unfair to your competitors or predecessors. That is, it's not only what you use or rely on, but works that came before yours.

  • 5
    Of course, there is no question that one must include important prior strongly related work. But my question is about a citation request about a paper which is not related, but only on the same topic. One cannot cite the entire literature of the field.
    – sintetico
    Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:25
  • 1
    If these other papers are not really competitors in any way, (and if you didn't use their results in any way), it would seem that the people are just fishing for citations for themselves. But/and if they view themselves as your competitors, while you ignore them, it's awkward. Maybe get a subject-specific "unbiased opinion" about whether or not the papers are any sort of competitors... It is possible that one doesn't quite recognize "competition" because it comes in a different guise. Commented Aug 14, 2015 at 21:44

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