Selective citation

From The Embassy of Good Science

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 analyses and 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.

  1. Supak Smolcic V. Salami publication: definitions and examples. Biochem Medica. 2013;23(3):237-41.

For whom is this important?

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.[1] References to published material should not be used to promote self-interests.[2] 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. Abraham P. Duplicate and salami publications. J Postgrad Med. 2000;46(2):67-9.
  2. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Recommendations. Overlapping Publications. Accessed 29 May 2019. Available at:

Other information

Virtues & Values
Good Practices & Misconduct