A guide to citing and referencing your own work
You will probably already know that you should always be very careful about citing and referencing other work in your research. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism and is considered a highly unethical academic practice. But what about using, citing and referencing your own work? In this article, we break down everything you need to know about citing and referencing your previous research.
Why do you need to reference your own work?
You may be wondering why you need to reference your own work, since you are the same author and the content you are citing was generated by the same person – yourself. However, each unit of work is considered distinct and original, and must be cited and referenced as such. Any previously written and/or published work, even if it is your own, is not considered the same work that you are writing now and must be treated as a separate entity.
If you are citing or using content from several different books and journal articles written by the same author/academic, you would commonly reference each work separately. You should therefore treat your work in the same way. When you reuse any of your own previous research, you must accompany each piece of work with the right citations and references just as you would with any other literature or media. Failure to fully reference your own work is considered plagiarism, just as it would be if you did not properly reference anyone else’s work that you use.
When would you need to cite your own work?
You might want to refer to a particular element of some previous research that you have conducted and published – for example, some specific results, a significant finding or a principal argument.
Any research that has been formally conducted, presented and/or published, in whatever capacity, should be considered an original piece of work and must be properly credited and referenced if you use it. This work can include, among others, essays or dissertations completed in any of your degrees, conference and journal papers, research posters, articles published in journals, blogs or other media.
Here is an example: Let’s say you are investigating a specific hypothesis in your PhD research. Later, in a post-doctoral research project, you re-examine that hypothesis using a different theoretical framework and method. You might want to discuss the methods you had previously used and the main conclusions formed from that study.
It would not be enough, nor ethical, to simply state the previous methods and results. Instead, you should also clearly cite and contextualise the points you are making – in other words, offer a brief description of the previous study, and clarify how and why it is relevant to your current study. Then, you should also include the full, complete reference of that previous work you are citing.
Do note that publishing the same research in multiple languages, without proper citation and referencing, is also considered self-plagiarism and will not be counted as original work. So, if you have published your work in a different language, you must treat this as a separate and original piece of work and reference it accordingly.
How do you cite and reference your own work?
The easiest way to approach citations and references of your own work is to remember to treat your previous work exactly the same as any other work by anyone else. Just as you would cite, contextualise, explain, describe and reference any other writing or study that you use throughout your research, you should also do this for your own work.
It might feel a bit strange to cite your own name and work as you write, but it is perfectly acceptable and correct. You would also include the full reference to that previous study in your reference list/bibliography.
Here is an example of how you could cite and reference yourself:
“While I previously argued for the nutritional benefits of eggs for children (Lee, 2020), this present study investigates how an excessive consumption of eggs in adolescents might actually be harmful to their physical health.”
Plagiarism, including self-plagiarism, is taken very seriously in the academic community and constitutes a grave ethical breach. If you are unsure whether you need to reference any of your previous work, always err on the site of caution and include the reference first. It is always better to be careful and conscientious about citing and referencing any and all work that you use in your research. You can always remove it later if it is not needed.
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