How to increase citations to your published work

This is a short blog post, with links to more detailed resources: (1) a video on youtube, and (2) the slides that are shown in the video: Citations guide slides Hopwood


The main points are as follows.

To increase your citations you have to understand how it is that something gets cited at all. The basic flow is this: You publish. People find your work. People read your work. People engage with an aspect of it. People prioritise citing you when they write. People publish new work citing your work!

Sounds simple and obvious doesn’t it? Yes. But there are some things to think through. Here are some teasers… you’ll have to watch the video and look at the slides to get the full picture.

You publish

Duh! No publications, no citations. But remember publications ARE set in stone. You can’t unpublish. So don’t publish half baked crap. And either make sure you keep using the same name (including middle initials that help make your name a unique identifier), or if you do change names be aware of complexity this can cause and make deliberate efforts to manage this. Think about what counts as ‘published’ in your field, in terms of what can be cited (journal papers? book chapters? conference papers?)

People find your work

A high impact factor is no guarantee people will find, let alone cite your work. Make it easy for people to find your work. And to find it for the right reasons. And to find it ‘accidentally’ – don’t underestimate the h-index boosting power of the accidental discoverer. Use proximity to others, self promotion, and self citation to your advantage (sounds egotistical, but others are you so you might as well!). Think about access issues.

People read your work

Finding your work and actually reading it are not the same thing. The large pile of found but not yet read papers on my desk (and the desks of many colleagues) proves this. To be cited someone else has to find your work, decide it’s worth reading, start reading, and keep reading! (at least until the end of the abstract!)

People engage with an aspect of your work

To stand a chance of being cited you have to say something that someone wants, or even, needs, to cite. Novelty is crucial. If you say what others have said, why would the next author choose to cite your work rather than the other (better) people? Exclusivity helps – be the only one, or part of a small pioneering group doing x, or applying x in new ways, new contexts etc. Of course you can get cited by being controversial. Offering useful conceptual or methodological frameworks, measurement tools, coining terms etc are all ways to get cited. Flattering others helps too. Seriously.

People then choose to cite you when they write

We can’t cite an infinite number of papers when we write. So it’s a competitive space. To be cited you have to win out over others. So you want to get as close to a ‘must-cite’ level as you can… look in the paragraph above for clues… and don’t forget people may well cite you because it serves their interests as much as yours.

People publish, citing you 

There’s no point being found, read, engaged and written about by someone who doesn’t actually submit stuff for publication and get it accepted, or only does so in obscure journals. You want to be found, read, engaged with, and cited by the publishing super stars! And so then your work is appearing in texts read by heaps more people, who then look you up, read your work, cite it… positive feedback loop, h-index spiralling into the skies, promotion, research grants, and a graceful relaxing early retirement will definitely ensue, guaranteed*.

*Not guaranteed


3 thoughts on “How to increase citations to your published work

  1. Jonathan O'Donnell

    Thanks, Nick.

    Good advice, as always. I was wondering what you thought of ORCID ID as an antidote to changing names, changing institutions, changing disciplines, or just having a common name.

    I’m a big fan, but then I’m a bit of a metadata nerd.

    1. nickhopwood Post author

      Hi Jonathan

      Thanks for your comments. I’m really pleased you raised ORCID ID as I’d overlooked that, and as you say, it will be really important in helping managing the many changes that happen over the course of a career. I genuinely don’t know how good scopus, google etc are in coping with name changes, and was advised early on to find a unique (or near-unique) identifier and stick with it.

      Appreciate your input!


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