Selective citation

What is this about?

Selective citation refers to biased ways of looking at the body of previously published work and involves cherry-picking when using available knowledge.

Why is this important?

Being selective in using previously published work results in biased and/or incomplete conclusions. This endangers the integrity of claims, and harms society’s trust in research because it creates unfounded authority (1). Selective citations affect authors of previously published work, whether they are cited or not. It also affects readers of research hoping that it is accurate and unbiased. Other parties that might be impacted by selective citations are researchers conducting meta-analyses that synthesize a body of published work, decision making agencies that rely on accurate research results, as well as regulatory/oversight bodies of the research landscape.

For whom is this important?

Students, PhD Students, Scientists, Researchers, Supervisors, Postdocs, Journal publishers, Journal editors, Junior researchers, Senior researchers, Reviewers

What are the best practices?

The correct use of previously published material does not involve selective citation to enhance one’s own findings or to please editors, reviewers or colleagues (2). References to published material should not be used to promote self-interests (3). Nuanced use of previously published material involves using resources in a neutral and unbiased way.

Examples of citation in the scientific and popular literature

Journal articles:

Blog sphere:

News outlets:


1. Greenberg, S. A. (2009). How citation distortions create unfounded authority: Analysis of a citation network. Bmj, 339(Jul20). doi:10.1136/bmj.b2680

2. All European Academies. (2017). The European code of conduct for research integrity, revised edition. Available online at:

3. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (2018). Recommendations for the conduct, reporting, editing, and publication of scholarly work in medical journals. Available online at:

Mohammad Hosseini contributed to this theme.

Latest contribution was June 1, 2019