Changing patterns of self-citation: Cumulative inquiry or self-promotion?

Ken Hyland, Feng (Kevin) Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Self-citations are a familiar, if sometimes controversial, element of academic knowledge construction and reputation-building, contributing to both the cumulative nature of academic re-search and helping writers to promote their scientific authority and enhance their careers. As scholarly publications become more specialised, more collaborative and more important for promotion and tenure, we might expect self-citation to play a more visible role in published research and this paper explores this possibility. Here we trace patterns of self-citation in papers from the same five journals in four disciplines at three-time periods over the past 50 years, selected according to their impact ranking in 2015. We identify a large increase in self-citations although this is subject to disciplinary variation and tempered by a huge rise in citations overall, so that self-citation has fallen as a proportion of all citations. We attempt to ac-count for these changes and give a rhetorical explanation for authorial practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365–387
Number of pages23
JournalText and Talk
Issue number3
Early online date24 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2018


  • self-citation
  • academic discourse
  • diachronic change
  • disciplinary differences
  • assessment culture
  • higher education

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