Self-Citation Podcasts, Policies, and Resources

Writing an Effective Thesis (Girl with Headphones)

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Melody Pickle, Writing Specialist, WAC, Kaplan University

Self-Citation – Both students and academic professionals seem to be wrestling with the question, “when should I cite myself?”  The Kaplan University Writing Center recently developed a self-citation resource and a self-citation policy to help alleviate some of this confusion for students in an academic setting.  These policies can be found in the Graduate Student Resources section of the Writing Reference Library page.  (These sources do not necessarily answer the publication and ethical questions created by professionals publishing in academic journals.)

For a definition of self-citation and an explanation of when to cite, listen to this podcast on Self Citation:

 “How do I cite myself?”

This is a question we often hear in the Kaplan University Writing Center Workshops and Live Tutoring.  Generally, this question is coming from an undergraduate student who wants to cite large sections of a previous paper in order to avoid rewriting and rethinking a new paper.  In these cases, this answer is as follows:

Unless you are a published expert in the field about which you are writing, then you should not cite yourself.  You should cite experts in the field in order to lend credibility to your research.

Sometimes, students ask, “How do I cite myself?”  because they want to reuse a source  they used in a previous paper.  In these cases, we say the following:

It is always best to cite the original source; you do not want to cite yourself citing someone else.  Simply cite your original source.

We then explain how to do this and why.

Plagiarism Confusion

These questions seem to stem from confusion about the purposes of research writing and the purposes of citation. We try to address these deeper issues as well as answer the question at hand.  We have some citation tips in this previous blog post  5 Tips to Help Students Avoid Plagiarism that can help students as they figure out this critical research writing and thinking process.

When can I Cite Myself?

Many times, students in a particular major are asked to write about similar topics in multiple classes.  Graduate students may be asked to write repeatedly on similar subjects.  In these cases, students want to reference ideas they had in previous papers, and they want to avoid getting flagged by TurnItIn.  Also, sometimes students are asked to discuss their papers in an online discussion forum.  In these forums, sometimes students need to quote from and otherwise reference their work.  With graduate students who may be working toward a particular thesis or capstone project, it may entirely appropriate for them self-cite.

For student work, you can generally cite yourself when

  1. You are referencing an original idea from an unpublished or published paper or previous assignment.
  2. You are quoting a very brief section (a sentence or two) of your own words from a previously written paper or assignment.

Do not cite yourself citing someone else.

Here are the directions from our latest tutorial Self-Citation:

How To Cite Yourself


 If you quote or otherwise refer to your previous work, cite yourself as the author and the work as an unpublished paper, as shown in the APA Publication Manual 6th ed., Section 7.09. For example, if Mel Pickle wanted to cite a paper she wrote for a previous course, her in-text citation might look like this:

 Pickle (2013) posited that writing in the out-of-doors captures a specific type of writing: “Writing in the out-of-doors creates moments which capture writing and thinking during that experience” (p. 4).

 The reference list citation looks like this:

 Pickle, M. (2013). My time outdoors: A study in writing and rhetoric. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Rhetoric, Kaplan University, Online.

(Kaplan University, 2013)


Kaplan University (2013). Self-Citation.  [Online Tutorial .pdf].  Retrieved from

Listen to this podcast on Self Citation.

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