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Career tips on getting more highly cited

Please note that these are general thoughts and ideas, and not recommendations! You must choose whether you believe them to be good tips or not. Some of the ideas below might be considered game playing and be frowned upon and there is scant evidence available about what actually works. Where we have found evidence that a particular approach does affect citations, it is included. It takes a very long time to become highly cited and there are a lot of different factors involved.

Take citation measurements with a healthy dose of scepticism: a highly cited work could be a famous example... or an infamous one!

  • Review papers accrue more citations than those discussing original research. Look at any listing on Thomson Reuters' JCR (part of Web of Knowledge). This article has a useful table for Mathematics (NB review articles might not be included in REF.)
  • This paper suggests that gaining an editorship will raise citations of your work
  • There is evidence that open access publishing will raise citations. Depositing in a repository such as WRAP is a form of open access publishing. The combination of visibility and accessibility which WRAP gives to a paper makes it more likely that people will cite that work. You may also find subject repositories a good place to put your work. From a discovery point of view, it is wise to distribute you work online as widely as you can. Each repository host will refer to the final published 'version of record' and will promote your work to different audiences via different routes

More information about repositories
More information about open access publishing

  • Approach high impact journals for publication. This paper describes how the same papers when published in an already high impact journal will accrue more citations than when published in a less high impact journal: Larivière, V. and Gingras, Y. (2010), The impact factor's Matthew Effect: A natural experiment in bibliometrics. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 61: 424–427
  • Once a paper has been cited within its first year of publication, it is likely to accrue more citations: if you're planning to send out copies of your article, it would be best to do so promptly after publication. Eg, see Adams, J. (2005) Early citation counts correlate with accumulated impact. Scientometrics, 63(3): 567-581
  • Self-citations are also counted (although some who use the data make efforts to strip them out). If it is relevant to cite your earlier work, don't hesitate to do so
  • Collaborate with co-authors: they might also self-cite and their combined network will be wider than just your own and so their contacts will add to the pool of those aware of your work, who might cite you! You could ask other contacts and colleagues to cite your work and offer to cite theirs in return
  • Network and attend high profile conferences to talk about your research work and raise your profile more broadly. Websites like LinkedIn, and other academic profile sites might be useful when networking and raising your profile
  • Always cite your own work correctly, even if others don’t. If you originally cite an ‘In press’ or ‘Online first’ item then if possible go back and update the citation to the final published version. It is better to use a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) to describe the location of your paper – even if the article is moved, the DOI will still find it

  • Consider using a name identifier, particularly if you have a common name, to help people distinguish your research from others and help stop any of your citations from ‘escaping’. The recommended name identifier scheme is ORCID, which works with both Scopus and Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science to allow researchers to ‘claim’ their publications

Article preparation

  • Use long titles: these will make your article relevant to more searches because most search relevance algorithms place weighting on records where the search term occurs in the title. If the search term occurs in the title, the more likely someone will find your research paper at the top of their search results list. This may not mean that they will cite your work but it may help them to know it exists. E.g., see: Jacques, T. S. and Sebire, N. J. (2010) The impact of article titles on citation hits: an analysis of general and specialist medical journals, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Short Reports, 1 (12 )
    • Also: Habibzadeh, F. and Yadollahie, M. (2010) Are Shorter Article Titles More Attractive for Citations? Cross-sectional Study of 22 Scientific Journals, Croatian Medical Journal, 51(2): 165–170
  • Consider writing fewer, larger papers: with more content, a single paper ought to accrue more citations. There is a concept of "CV pollution" where lots of publications might not necessarily be considered a good thing, especially if they are not all in top notch titles
  • Do not always write highly technical papers aimed at the scientific experts in your field. Non-specialist articles are likely to have a wider readership, as are those with a broader approach (as with review articles). Such papers can cite your own technical papers
  • Publish your data as well as your articles: publishing data increases citation rates. Piwowar HA, Day RS, Fridsma DB (2007) Sharing Detailed Research Data - y dot c dot budden at warwick dot ac dot uk, as there may be other options that may be available for you to publish your data
  • An author can (in theory) gain citations for letters and other types of content, as well as for research papers. Such activity could raise your research profile more generally
  • Will asking a question in the title of your article get your science paper cited more? A Guardian article by Ben Goldacre considers this question

After publication

  • Check the final proofs of your work to ensure your name and affiliation are shown correctly. People often use institutional affiliation to distinguish between authors of the same name (for example in Web of Science) so make sure this is accurate
  • Make sure your work is correctly described in citation databases such as Web of Knowledge; if not then ask for it to be changed
  • Monitor citations of your work: set up an alert on WoS so that you get an e-mail every time someone cites your article. (If you don't know how to do this you can ask by e-mailing library at warwick dot ac dot uk, we'll send you the latest instructions, invite you to a demo or arrange one for your department, as appropriate)
  • When your work is published, tell everyone – not only your specialist research community, but also your colleagues down the corridor. Even a coffee shop conversation can raise awareness of your work and result in a potential citation
  • Make use of social media – blog about it, tweet about it, bookmark it, link to it from your Facebook page, share it via your preferred online networking tool (academia.edu, ResearchGate, Mendeley etc.) (See what happened when Melissa Terras tried this approach.)
  • Consider creating a ‘video trailer’ for your research to use on your department pages and networking sites. These can be very powerful