The vast majority of studies, including the largest one we looked at, found that the more references a paper has, the more likely it is to be cited by other articles. The only exception to this is in the legal field where Ayers and Vars found that articles in top journals tend to gain more citations if they have fewer internal references. As with many of the factors this site examines, what is “more” references varies widely by discipline, making it important to tailor your work to your discipline.
Some studies went beyond looking solely at number of citations and broke it down to the type of internal citations. These articles found that more internal citations to recent sources and top sources each led to more citations. These studies indicate that as in SEO, you want to make sure that the articles you cite to are recent, relevant, and of high quality.
Theories vary on why more internal references tend to bring additional citations. One theory from the SEO world is that articles with more internal references tend to rank better and this is why they are cited more often: they come up sooner in search results and are viewed more than other articles. At least one article suggested that more internal references signals that a paper is more likely to cross multiple topics, increasing chances for citations by appealing to a wider audience. As with page length, a high number of references may signal a well-researched article, making subsequent authors more likely to use it.
Sometimes when scholars find a useful article, they will search for more articles that cite that article. Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic have built their tools to make doing this easy. The more works a paper cites to, the more “cited by” lists that paper will appear on, thus increasing the chances it will be found and cited by others.
Have more ideas or know of other helpful articles? Please let us know! EMAIL US.
One of the easiest and most natural ways to increase your internal references / citations is to follow our tip and write longer articles, which will likely mean more citations. Another natural choice would be to cite to a source whenever you have any doubt about whether a citation is needed - a good practice to follow regardless of its impact on citations. Additionally, you can cite multiple resources to support the same point. Doing so will bolster your arguments and provide your readers with more options if they want additional details. Including a related work or scholarship summary at the beginning of your paper creates another opportunity to build citations, while also providing your reader with a useful intro and short bibliography should they want to learn more. You can take this last idea a step further and write an entire article focused on summarizing existing scholarship in an area, as this article does with factors influencing citations.
We’d like to hear your ideas and techniques as well. Please EMAIL US if you have other suggestions or techniques - bonus points if you include a citation to a supporting resource.
As with all our tips, avoid anything that seems unnatural or feels deceptive towards users or systems. For example, we recommend avoiding any sort of agreement to cite others in exchange for similar treatment. Google discovered websites exhibiting this behavior and punished those websites by demoting them in its search engine results. Academics are already investigating these citation cartels in scholarship and it is likely that the behavior will be punished. In fact, journals have already been punished for similar citation anomalies, making it all the more likely that authors could be next.
Camille Roth, Jiang Wu, Sergi Lozano
computer science, economics, engineering, physics
This study’s findings related to new internal references and references within the same discipline that the article focused on. It found that more of either of these types of references led to more citations to the studied article.
George A. Antoniou, Stavros A. Antoniou, Efstratios I. Georgakarakos, George S. Sfyroeras, George S. Georgiadis
major vascular and general surgical journals
biology, biochemistry, chemistry, mathematics, and physics
Fereshteh Didegah, Mike Thelwall
nanoscience and nanotechnology
This article found that articles with more references are cited more often and that articles with references to “high impact” works get even more citations.
Minho So, Jiyoung Kim, Sangki Choi, Han Woo Park
science and technology, including natural sciences, life sciences, and engineering
This was the largest study we looked at. It included over 45,000 papers.
Natsuo Onodera, Fuyuki Yoshikane
condensed matter physics, inorganic and nuclear chemistry, electric and electronic engineering, biochemistry and molecular biology, physiology, and gastroenterology
Found that in addition to more references leading to more citations, citation chances could be increased further if a higher percentage of those references were to articles published 5 years of less from the date of the studied article.
Tian Yu and Guang Yu
information science & library science
Barbara J. Robson, Aurélie Mousquès
Nick Haslam, Peter Koval
social, personality psychology
terrorism, mass extinction, complex network analysis, and knowledge domain visualization
Yassine Gargouri, Chawki Hajjem, Vincent Larivière, Yves Gingras, Les Carr, Tim Brody, Stevan Harnad
General / interdisciplinary
Lutz Bornmann, Hermann Schier, Werner Marx, Hans-Dieter Daniel
Nick Haslam, Lauren Ban, Leah Kaufmann, Stephen Loughnan, Kim Peters, Jennifer Whelan, Sam Wilson
Looked at articles from 1998.
Tai‐Quan Peng, Jonathan J.H. Zhu
Ian Ayres, Fredrick E. Vars
53 pages is optimal length according to this study. It looked at articles published between 1980 to 1995, in three top law journals.
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