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How to Write your Paper for Increased Citations

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How to Write your Paper for Increased Citations 

(with a note on not overemphasing citation as a metric)


[This article is part of a two-article series on writing and promoting your paper for increased citations. This first article discusses how to write your paper for garnering increased citations. The second article (available here) provides pointers for promoting your accepted/published paper for greater citations.]


Did you know…

Nearly 44% of all published manuscripts are never cited? 

Papers with 10 or more citations end up in the top 24% of the most cited work? 

The significance of citations

Through a citation, an author acknowledges a published paper as the source of their ideas, study background or methods. The number of citations offers a measure of a paper’s importance and depicts a researcher’s performance and impact. Accordingly, an author’s citation count determines funding and career advancement in academia. 

A note about not focusing excessively on citations

However, ensure that you are not focusing exclusively on citation count. This is because:

  • The total number of publications authored by a researcher may reflect their productivity, but this may include several low-quality publications.
  • While the total number of times a scientist’s papers are cited in other publications is a good measure of quality, this number can be skewed by just a few highly cited papers, especially review articles.
  • The number of publications and citation conventions are not the same in every field.

Aim to enhance the overall impact of contributions

Certain author-level metrics (e.g. h-index) provide a more meaningful window into a researcher’s impact and are used in decision-making for recruitment, academic positions and funding. Thus, besides increasing the number of publications and citations, you should work towards enhancing the overall impact of your research contributions using other methods, including, for example, public engagement and outreach.

That said, let’s explore some ways in which you can plan and write your paper to ethically and organically increase its chances of citation once accepted/published. We will look at measures you can adopt before starting the actual writing, during the writing stage and through self-citing.

Tips to increase chances of citations before starting to write

  • Choose open access (OA) journals: Because of their wider access, papers in OA journals tend to be viewed, read and cited more often than those in subscription-based (paywalled) journals.
  • Choose high-impact journals: Publishing in journals with high impact factors and other bibliometric and alternative metric values will boost your chances of being cited by other authors. Seek journals that actively post published work on social media platforms, particularly those that encourage shareable multimedia options like graphical and video abstracts.
  • Present preliminary findings at a conference: Presenting at a conference will facilitate early recognition of your work (and you) in relevant scientific circles. 

Tips to increase chances of citations while writing

  • Keep your title short and declarative: Crisp, statement-based titles are easier to understand; these papers will be read and cited more often.
  • Use keywords judiciously: Select keywords that will appear in database searches by scientists in your field. Use these keywords and key phrases optimally in your abstract, introduction and subheadings.
  • Provide links to your data repositories: Articles that provide links to data in a repository have been found to have a high citation impact. If this is applicable to your line of work, be sure to provide data availability statements with a link to the data.
  • Utilise preprint servers: If your paper is not in an OA journal, post your preprints and published versions of the preprints to a repository to garner citations and online mentions.

Tips to increase chances of citations while self-citing

Cite your own work, but do so ethically. When done correctly, self-citation can enable readers to appreciate the development of a body of work over time. However, when self-citation is done indiscriminately, with the selfish intent of increasing one’s citation count, it is unethical.


Read second/final in series: How to Promote your (accepted/published) Paper for Increased Citations


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