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A cite for more I’s? A brief personal look at obsessive self-citation

All of us who are involved in any kind of academic writing have to conform to minimum standards such as the meticulous recording of source material in the form of cited references. Griffiths (2005) noted that there are three main reasons why people use references. These being (i) the expression of an idea has been put forward more clearly elsewhere by someone else, (ii) to make specific reference to relevant past literature, and (iii) to provide suggestions for further background reading.

These reasons can also be applied to self-citation. However, self-citation has additional advantages. Griffiths (2005) also notes that self-citation references can also be used to (i) let journal reviewers and referees know who has written the paper (which may not always be a good thing!), (ii) to establish to readers your reputation in a given area and/or (iii) satisfy cravings to see your name in print! In today’s blog I aim to examine the art of obsessive self-citation in academic writing and give some effortless hints and tips.

It has previously been asserted that self-citation is academia’s way of expressing one’s ego although this was based on anecdotal evidence rather than any kind of empirical investigation (Griffiths, 2016a). After an exhaustive literature search it perhaps came as no surprise that I found absolutely nothing on the subject of self-citation except an unpublished paper by myself (Griffiths, 2013) which has been described as “the best article in this area” (Griffiths, 2016b).

So what can the experienced and obsessive self-citation expert get up to in the course of a single article? Self-citation aficionados are known to use such tricks as referring to themselves in less conventional formats such as letters to national newspaper (e.g. Griffiths, 1998), articles in international newspapers (Griffiths, 2014), articles in national newspapers (e.g. Griffiths, 2016c), articles in local newspapers (Griffiths, 2016d), educational leaflets (e.g. Griffiths, 1993a), consultancy reports (e.g. Griffiths, 2002a) or blogs (Griffiths, 2016e).

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However, these work most effectively if they are buried away amongst more conventional references such as books and refereed journal articles. Those experienced in obsessive self-citation will often sink to even murkier depths. For instance, self-citation is an excellent way of introducing something that seems implausible into your argument. Two common ways to disguise implausibility is the liberal use of such phrases as “paper forthcoming”, “manuscript submitted for publication”, “internal report” or “personal communication” (however, the latter should be used very sparingly as it suggests that the author is someone who talks about things more than writing them). If you sprinkle these into an article and intersperse them with a few very genuine citations such as books you wrote which received very good reviews (Griffiths, 1995; 2002b) or some of your good and/or highly cited refereed journal papers spread across a number of years (Auer & Griffiths, 2015; Cole & Griffiths, 2007; Griffiths, 1991a; 1993b; 1994; 1996; 1997; 1999; 2000; 2001; 2003; 2004; 2008; 2010; Griffiths, Kuss, Billieux & Pontes, 2016; Kuss, Griffiths & Binder, 2013) it can look very professional and in some cases impressive (or just show you to be the egomaniac that you are).

For the really experienced, secondary self-citation or embedded self-citations can often be useful. This is a technique where you can use quotes attributed to you in a newspaper or magazine article written by someone else (e.g. Griffiths, 1991b) although it looks as though it is one of the author’s bona fide references.

However, as my last word on the subject, I will leave you with one practice you should definitely avoid. I am referring to the inclusion of self-citation by pseudonym that has been described by Mithgriffs (2015) as “a despicable habit that should be stamped out”.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

References

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Testing normative and self-appraisal feedback in an online slot-machine pop-up message in a real-world setting. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 339. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00339.

Cole, H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Social interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing gamers. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 10, 575-583.

Griffiths, M.D. (1991a). The observational study of adolescent gambling in UK amusement arcades. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 1, 309-320.

Griffiths, M.D. (1991b). Cited in Neustatter, A. “Keyboard junkies”. The Independent on Sunday Review, November 17, p.64.

Griffiths, M.D. (1993a). Your child and video games: Advice for parents. Coventry: National Council for Educational Technology (leaflet).

Griffiths, M.D. (1993b). Tolerance in gambling: An objective measure using the psychophysiological analysis of male fruit machine gamblers. Addictive Behaviors, 18, 365-372.

Griffiths, M.D. (1994). The role of cognitive bias and skill in fruit machine gambling. British Journal of Psychology, 85, 351-369.

Griffiths, M. (1995). Adolescent Gambling. London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Pathological gambling and its treatment. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 35, 477-479.

Griffiths, M.D. (1997). Video games and clinical practice: Issues, uses and treatments. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 36, 639- 641.

Griffiths, M.D. (1998). Unlucky number for under-16s. The Guardian, February 25, p.15.

Griffiths, M.D. (1999). Counselling in the treatment of pathological gambling: An overview. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 27, 179-190.

Griffiths, M.D. (2000). Internet addiction – Time to be taken seriously? Addiction Research, 8, 413-418.

Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Sex on the Internet: Observations and implications for sex addiction. Journal of Sex Research, 38, 333-342.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002a). The Social Impact of Casinos. Nottingham: Browne-Jackson.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002b). Gambling and Gaming Addictions in Adolescence. Leicester: British Psychological Society/Blackwells.

Griffiths, M.D. (2003). The therapeutic use of videogames in childhood and adolescence. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, 547-554.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004a). Odds and sods: You (nearly) win again. The Guardian, April 20, p. 6.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004b). Can videogames be good for your health? Journal of Health Psychology, 9, 339-344.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Self-citation: A practical guide. Null Hypothesis: The Journal of Unlikely Science (‘Best of’ issue), 15-16.

Griffiths, M.D. (2008). The biopsychosocial and “complex” systems approach as a unified framework for addiction. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31, 446-447.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The role of context in online gaming excess and addiction: Some case study evidence. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 119-125.

Griffiths, M. (2013). The art of self-citation. Article submitted for publication.

Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Sunshine: As addictive as heroin? Washington Post. June 24. Located at http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/06/24/sunshine-as-addictive-as-heroin/

Griffiths, M. (2016a). Personal communication with myself. September 29, 2016.

Griffiths, M.D. (2016b). Personal communication with myself. September 29, 2016.

Griffiths, M.D. (2016c). It will rule your life but addicts can be helped. Sunday Mirror, May 1, p.5.

Griffiths, M.D. (2016d). Sorry may be the hardest word but more people than ever are saying it. Nottingham Post, April 11, p.14.

Griffiths, M.D. (2016e). Market forces: Does gambling advertising increase problem gambling? August 22. Located at: https://drmarkgriffiths.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/market-forces-does-gambling-advertising-increase-problem-gambling/

Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J., Billieux J. & Pontes, H.M. (2016). The evolution of internet addiction: A global perspective. Addictive Behaviors, 53, 193–195.

Kuss, D.J., Griffiths, M.D. & Binder, J. (2013). Internet addiction in students: Prevalence and risk factors. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 959-966.

Mithgriffs, G. (2015). Whose self-citation is it anyway? Occasional Made-Up Paper (No.3).

Cite seeing: A brief guide for academics to increase their citation count

Apologies to any non-academics reading my blog today but this article will be of more interest to academic researchers than anyone else as it examines the strategies that I have used to get (what some people have claimed as) an “excessive” number of citations to my published work. All academics are aware that the use of bibliometric data is becoming ever more important in academia. Along with impact factors of academic journals, one of the most important bibliometric indicators is citation counts. These are increasingly being used in a number of contexts including internal assessment (e.g., going for a job promotion) and external assessments (e.g., use in the Research Excellence Framework [REF] as a proxy measure of quality and impact).

In June 2016 I reached close to 30,000 citations on Google Scholar and this is good evidence that what I do day-to-day works. I have an h-index of 91 (i.e., at least 91 of my papers have been cited 91 times) and an i10-index of 377 (i.e., a least 377 of my papers have been cited 10 times).

Citation counts take years to accumulate but you can help boost your citations in a number of different ways. Here are my tips and strategies that I personally use and that I know work. It probably goes without saying that the more you write and publish, the greater the number of citations. However, here are my top ten tips and based on a number of review papers on the topic (see ‘Further reading’ below):

  • Choose your paper’s keywords carefully: In an age of search engines and academic database searching, keywords in your publications are critical. Key words and phrases in the paper’s title and abstract are also useful for search purposes.
  • Use the same name on all your papers and use ORCID: I wish someone had told me at the start of my career that name initials were important. I had no idea that there were so many academics called ‘Mark Griffiths’. Adding my middle initial (‘D’) has helped a lot. You can also use an ORCID or ResearcherID and link it to your publications.
  • Make your papers as easily accessible as possible: Personally, I make good use of many different websites to upload papers and articles to (ResearchGate and academia.edu being the two most useful to me personally). Your own university institutional repositories can also be useful in this respect. All self-archiving is useful. It is also especially important to keep research pages up-to-date if you want your most recent papers to be read and cited.
  • Disseminate and promote your research wherever you can: I find that many British academics do not like to publicise their work but ever since I was a PhD student I have promoted my work in as many different places as possible including conferences, seminars, workshops and the mass media. More recently I have used social media excessively (such as tweeting links to papers I’ve just published). I also write media releases for work that I think will have mass appeal and work with my university Press Office to ensure dissemination is as wide as possible. I also actively promote my work in other ways including personal dissemination (e.g., my blogs) as well as sending copies of papers to key people in my field in addition to interested stakeholder groups (policymakers, gaming industry, treatment providers, etc.). I have a high profile web presence via my many websites.
  • Cite your previously published papers: Self-citation is often viewed quite negatively by some academics but it is absolutely fine to cite your own work where relevant on a new manuscript. Citing my own work has never hurt my academic career.
  • Publish in journals that you know others in your field read: Although many academics aim to get in the highest impact factor journal that they can, this doesn’t always lead to the highest number of citations. For instance, when I submit a gambling paper I often submit to the Journal of Gambling Studies (Impact factor=2.75). This is because gambling is a very interdisciplinary field and many of my colleagues (who work in disparate disciplines – law, criminology, social policy, economics, sociology, etc.) don’t read psychology journals. Some of my highest cited papers have been in specialist journals.
  • Try to publish in Open Access journals: Research has consistently shown that Open Access papers get higher citation rates than non-Open Access papers.
  • Write review papers: Although I publish lots of empirical papers I learned very early on in my academic career that review papers are more likely to be cited. I often try to write the first review papers in particular areas as everyone then has to cite them! Some types of outputs (especially those that don’t have an abstract) are usually poorly cited (e.g., editorials, letters to editors).
  • Submit to special issues of journals: Submitting a paper to a special issue of a journal increases the likelihood that others in your field will read it (as it will have more visibility). Papers won’t be cited if they are not read in the first place!
  • Publish collaboratively and where possible with international teams. Again, research has consistently shown that working with others collaboratively (i.e., team-authored papers) and in an international context has been shown to significantly increase citation counts.

Finally, here are a few more nuggets of information that you should know when thinking about how to improve your citation counts.

  • There is a correlation between number of citations and the impact factor of the journal but if you work in an interdisciplinary field like me, more specialist journals may lead to higher citation counts.
  • The size of the paper and reference list correlates with citation counts (although this may be connected with review papers as they are generally longer and get more cited than non-review papers.
  • Publish with ‘big names’ in the field. Publishing with the pioneers in your field will lead to more citations.
  • Get you work on Wikipedia References cited by Wikipedia pages get cited more. In fact, write Wikipedia pages for topics in your areas.
  • Somewhat bizarrely (but true) papers that ask a question in the title have lower citation rates. Titles that have colons in the title have higher citation rates.

Note: A version of this article was first published in the PsyPAG Quarterly (see below)

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addictions, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Ball, P. (2011). Are scientific reputations boosted artificially? Nature, May 6. Located at: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110506/full/news.2011.270.html (last accessed April 27, 2015).

Bornmann, L., & Daniel, H. D. (2008). What do citation counts measure? A review of studies on citing behavior. Journal of Documentation, 64(1), 45-80.

Corbyn, Z. (2010). An easy way to boost a paper’s citations. Nature, August 13. Located at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/news.2010.406 (last accessed April 27, 2015).

Ebrahim. N. A. (2012). Publication marketing tools – Enhancing research visibility and improving citations. University of Malaya. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Available at: http://works.bepress.com/aleebrahim/64

Ebrahim, N., Salehi, H., Embi, M. A., Habibi, F., Gholizadeh, H., Motahar, S. M., & Ordi, A. (2013). Effective strategies for increasing citation frequency. International Education Studies, 6(11), 93-99.

Ebrahim, N.A., Salehi, H., Embi, M. A., Habibi, F., Gholizadeh, H., & Motahar, S. M. (2014). Visibility and citation impact. International Education Studies, 7(4), 120-125.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Self-citation: A practical guide. Null Hypothesis: The Journal of Unlikely Science (‘Best of’ issue), 15-16.

Griffiths, M.D. (2015). How to improve your citation count. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 96, 23-24.

Jamali, H. R., & Nikzad, M. (2011). Article title type and its relation with the number of downloads and citations. Scientometrics, 88(2), 653-661.

Marashi, S.-A., Amin, H.-N., Alishah, K., Hadi, M., Karimi, A., & Hosseinian, S. (2013). Impact of Wikipedia on citation trends. EXCLI Journal, 12, 15-19.

MacCallum, C. J., & Parthasarathy, H. (2006). Open Access increases citation rate. PLoS Biology, 4(5), e176, http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040176

Swan, A. (2010) The Open Access citation advantage: Studies and results to date. Located at: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/268516/ (last accessed April 27, 2015).

Vanclay, J. K. (2013). Factors affecting citation rates in environmental science. Journal of Informetrics, 7(2), 265-271.

van Wesel, M., Wyatt, S., & ten Haaf, J. (2014). What a difference a colon makes: How superficial factors influence subsequent citation. Scientometrics, 98(3): 1601–1615.