The Pros and Cons of Self-Citation – How Much is Too Much?

Self reflection brings self acceptance.

Medical research, scientific studies, and research papers – what do they all have in common? These documents are often a vital component within their respective fields and as a result, accuracy and authority are key. One way to enhance the authority of a paper, while supporting evidence with reliable materials is via self-citation, but how much should you include this technique within a publication – and is there such a thing as too much? In this article, we’ll be exploring this concept in further detail.

What is a Citation?

A citation, or more specifically a self-citation, is a form of reference added within a document that directly links to a piece of information that corroborates an idea or a theory. Citations are most often used to provide data relating to facts surrounding the topic being discussed. For example, if you as an author claim within a scientific document, you’ll likely want to back it up with a link to the source that you retrieved the information from.

Should You Use Citations Within Your Work?

Yes, especially if you want to be taken seriously as an author with text that is recognized as being trustworthy and reliable. That doesn’t mean that you have to bombard your work with citations however; in fact, the trick to it is to recognize when a citation is needed and when it isn’t. For example, if you are stating an opinion, you shouldn’t feel obliged to share why you have that point of view, as this is considered a personal outlook.

But if you decide to state a fact, based either on calculations, recognized data, or something else that could be considered questionable, then it’s advisable to add a citation via a direct link that points to where you got that information from. And this citation shouldn’t be to a location that isn’t authoritative either; in fact, you’ll need to pick your sources carefully to avoid being questioned in the future.

This means that the best sources of information are considered to be factual websites or printed materials that are widely regarded as fact, as opposed to fiction.

How Many Citations Are Too Many?

This will of course depend on the length of your paper and other factors such as the number of times that you find yourself needing to reference your source. Generally speaking, one or two citations every few paragraphs can be enough; if you overload your text with these types of source links, it can quickly go from being an informative piece to a heavily researched work, whereby your relevance as the author may be called into question.

A good balance would be to incorporate one or two citations per page of text, although you may feel obliged to add more if your publication demands. Generally speaking however, citations are always a valued addition to a paper and can add authority, relevance and credibility, which can certainly be beneficial if you are working on one of your earliest papers and want to build a reputation based on reliability.

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