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Can I reference my own MA thesis?


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I am working on preparing parts of my MA thesis for publishing. In a specific part, which will hopefully be a separate article - I mention something on which I elaborate on in another part of the thesis, can I reference my won thesis if it has not been published (it was submitted, graded and I got my degree based on it)?

 

Thanks,

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The norms may vary from field to field. Also, I think this really depends on the context of your writing. 

In my field, it would be highly unusual for a peer-reviewed journal article to cite another person (or their own) thesis work. This is because theses are not peer reviewed and they are quite hard to access sometimes. In addition, since theses in my field are often collections of already published peer-reviewed works, it makes more sense to just directly cite the original work.

However, in some special cases, such as the PhD graduate leaving the field and never publishing the work from their thesis so that their thesis is the only place an idea was ever mentioned. So, some journals may allow a citation to a non peer-reviewed work if the paper's main argument does not depend on the thesis work being correct.

That said, for less formal contexts, theses are often cited in my field. For example, at conference talks or posters, or just on seminar presentations. 

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In linguistics it's very common to cite dissertations (and to a lesser degree, MA theses). There are also quite a few influential manuscripts people cite and build on that were never published, usually (but not exclusively) by established folks who have stopped bothering dealing with journals. Whether it's appropriate here depends on why you're giving the citation. You can cite the thesis for additional data or some tangent that your paper can basically do without. As a reviewer I would be a lot less happy if I saw a reference to something argued for in a thesis that never went through peer review, if it's a crucial component of the analysis. In that case, it needs to be spelled out and justified in the paper. This is especially when it's your own argument (as opposed to someone else's unpublished manuscript), in my opinion. 

In addition, when citing your own work as "see beefgallo (2015) for discussion," there is a concern that doing so will reveal your identity and affect the reviewing process. See for example LI's style sheet instructions on this, at the very top of the first page of the instructions. If you aren't sure you can provide the citation without revealing your identity, consult with your advisors and, if they aren't sure, the editor of the journal you plan to submit to.

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In addition, when citing your own work as "see beefgallo (2015) for discussion," there is a concern that doing so will reveal your identity and affect the reviewing process. See for example LI's style sheet instructions on this, at the very top of the first page of the instructions. If you aren't sure you can provide the citation without revealing your identity, consult with your advisors and, if they aren't sure, the editor of the journal you plan to submit to.

Ah, interesting, I didn't know linguistics was also a field that has blind reviews! Our referees are blind to us (however, many of them will reveal their identity after the fact) but the referees always know who the authors are.

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Right. I did not think of the fact that this would reveal my identity.

 

Basically, I am dividing my MA thesis into two parts, and I would like to try and submit them as separate articles (as suggested by my MA adviser) . Each part has a separate point, methodology and literature. The problem is that in the (chronologically) second part, I refer to the point of the first part as a given. That seems just seems like a strange thing to do, given that I have an entire separate section of the thesis that discusses just that. 

So I feel like the options are - to reference my own thesis, to elaborate on that concept (which will also require me to reference my thesis or spill a lot of electronic ink on what takes me 20 pages to explain in the other section of my thesis),  omit that thing (which is not an option, it is something basic about the phenomenon I discuss) or just refer to this thing as a given (which might raise questions, and might not).

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You should really consult with your advisor on this. If it were me, I would probably do the following: work on and submit paper #1, based on the first half of the thesis. Post it somewhere online, either on an online repository (lingbuzz, semanticsarchive, or whichever one best fits your work) and/or on my website. Then start working on paper #2. Cite paper #1 as needed in paper #2. The reviewing process  in our field can be kind of slow, but so can the writing process, so it's possible that paper #1 will at least go through one round of reviews, and perhaps even get accepted, before paper #2 is submitted. There is less of a risk of identifying yourself as the author if you don't cite the thesis, which will clearly contain the work in both papers, but just the relevant portion of the work that's been reworked into a journal submission. While not different in terms of status, there is still some difference between a Masters thesis and a paper that's been reworked to be submitted to a journal. 

Meanwhile, another possibility that would make life easier, if you can do this, is to submit the work to conferences. You can write portions of your thesis up as proceedings papers, some of which can be quite prestigious. This helps with the citation problem, and doesn't preclude the possibility of a journal submission. Of course this may not be possible (or fast) to do with the present work, but generally it can be a good solution for getting something out there that people can look at and cite while you are preparing the journal version of the work.  

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I think I will do the first thing you offered. Try to get the first half published first. I was just wanting to be done with this thesis for a while and have both parts ready for the first attempt at getting published.

 

 

Thanks

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You could try and submit both papers at (roughly) the same time. It might work, especially if the part you're citing the other paper for isn't crucial for your argument. Or, your reviewers might question the validity of relying on an argument that hasn't been vetted yet, and in that case you'll have two options -- either you take the time to spell out the argument in the paper and try and get that past review, or you put the paper to the side until the other one is accepted and then you try again. There is so much luck involved in the reviewing process, no one can predict what might happen. What I can predict for sure is that you'll get asked questions you never saw coming :) 

Good luck!

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Thanks. I was thinking about the option of spelling this thing out. I am considering that. I did want to submit both parts at the same time. Also, the second part (where I need to cite myself) seems more 'exciting' maybe, like it has more chances to be published. I think I will try to find a solution which will allow me to submit both, and if not - do them one at a time.

 

Thanks again!

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