How to get more citations as a junior scholar (in a social science without embargoes)

With Google Scholar being so easy to access these days (compared to other citation indices that you had to get from the library and look up one article at a time), getting your work cited becomes more important than ever for things like promotion and tenure.

Unfortunately doing good work isn’t enough if people aren’t aware of it.  On top of getting things published in good journals, you also have to get your stuff out there so people know about it and recommend it to other people.

How do you do that?

If you’re in a field that allows you to put up working papers prior to publication, then do that!  You can put it up on SSRN and/or on your own webpage concurrently with sending it to a journal.  (Or sooner!  Though do be careful about having a version you’re happy with posted and make sure you’re not in an area where people steal ideas from each other prior to publication.)

You can also send your paper to people that you cite– people are generally very nice when junior people do this and sometimes they even send back helpful comments and encouragement.

Make sure you cite other people and other important papers– google scholar and other indexes often let people know when they’ve been cited and if your paper looks interesting, they may look at it and keep it in mind the next time they do work.

Make sure you cite yourself, if appropriate.  I had a junior colleague who at one point had more publications than citations.  That should not be!  Not after your first two publications, at least.  Google scholar doesn’t care if citations are self-citations, though some indices do keep track of that.  In any case, citing yourself appropriately means that people reading any one of your papers can find other relevant papers of yours without having to look you up personally.  That means they’ll be more likely to add multiple relevant papers of yours to their next literature review.

Also:  get out there and submit your stuff to conferences.  Even if you don’t get in, the committee will have read your abstract at the very least and might remember it then next time they have a student doing something similar.  Even better is getting accepted and having people see your work in progress.

Have a short elevator pitch for whatever project you’re working on– once conferences are back in person, people like to ask junior people what they’re working on, and if you have a short summary of something interesting, they may remember it and you.

Grumpy Academics:  How do you get more citations?  How do you get your work and your name out there?

5 Responses to “How to get more citations as a junior scholar (in a social science without embargoes)”

  1. Steph Says:

    My field uses arXiv extensively ( If you don’t post your paper on arXiv, it probably won’t be cited much. Most people subscribe to a service that sorts abstracts by selected keywords, so that the papers most relevant to them will (in theory) be at the top of the list every day. There are debates about whether to post preprints on submission or on acceptance. I prefer posting on acceptance, but the field is unfortunately moving towards posting on submission because people want to “stake their claim”. Which means the quality of the preprints is going down.

    I’ve used twitter pretty successfully – a large contingent of my subfield is on twitter, so when I post my papers on arxiv, I also put the link on twitter. I usually do a short thread with key plots/takeaways, and tag my coauthors. They usually RT the post(s) too, which increases the reach. A few years ago, someone else posted a very similar paper to mine, 3 weeks before mine. Their collaboration self-cites more than mine, but my paper has more citations in total – I attribute that to twitter advertising.

    Conferences help too, though I’m almost always presenting work in progress that doesn’t have a citation yet. I need to work on that timing, I guess.

  2. Anonymath Says:

    I’ve taught a workshop on this at my university (alongside a few reference librarians) and in addition to the great tips above, the best way to increase your citations is to have your papers available. Posting a copyright-approved version of your paper to a website like increased citations to those papers tremendously. We even did a study where we had papers available for a few years, then removed them from the site for a few years, then returned them. You could see an obvious pattern in the citation rates when the papers were available vs when they were offline.

    Check with your librarians, but most journals allow you to post a pre-acceptance version of your paper on public sites and it’s easy to mark “cite this paper as …” with the proper citation to the final article on the front page.

    I’ve posted mine on academia and researchgate with a one year delay and my citations are now the second highest in my social science-related college.

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