METM10 poster presentation

Citing your own (and others’) work: A comparison of citation practices in Spanish and English academic texts

Sally Burgess, Ana Dí­az Galán and Marí­a del Carmen Fumero Pérez – La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain

Background: Author's editors and translators often provide guidance for their clients on appropriate citation practices (see, for example, Iain Patten at this METM). They can draw on the work of sociologists of science and on genre analytic research examining citation styles and discourse functions. Authors may have difficulty citing appropriately in English because they transfer practices from another language culture such as Spanish. The study we present in this poster examines this issue.

Materials and methods: We examined two comparable collections of research papers written in the field of Linguistics, twelve of which were written in Spanish and twelve in English. We counted the number of citations per 100 words of text, examined where in the papers these citations occurred and classified the citations as integral or non-integral. We also counted instances of self-citations and categorised them in terms of their position in the text and discourse function.

Findings: Although the two groups of texts do not vary significantly when it comes to citation frequency or style, self-citation is handled differently by the authors writing in Spanish. They used self-citation three times more frequently, self-cited in positions in the paper where citation is non-obligatory and used an integral citation style more frequently. Many of these self-citations are purely self-promotional.

Conclusion: The differences in self-citation patterns in English and Spanish that emerge from the study suggest that increased awareness of citation practices in English may help authors to meet reader expectations. Language professionals also may benefit from increased awareness of these differences in order to help their clients.


Sally Burgess teaches at the Universidad de La Laguna. She has carried out intercultural rhetoric research on Spanish and English scientific texts focussing particularly on academic criticism, rhetorical structure and more recently, citation practices. She also conducted a study of the publishing behaviours of Spanish-speaking scholars working at the University of La Laguna and is now involved in a national project examining similar issues.

MarÃía del Carmen Fumero Pérez teaches at the Universidad de La Laguna. After completing her doctoral dissertation on pragmatic functions in political speeches, she has devoted most of her attention to academic discourse and to gender issues in academic publishing. Her more recent work has concerned itself with spoken academic texts and with citation patterns across cultures.

Ana Diaz Galán teaches at the Universidad de La Laguna. Her research interests revolve around coherence and cohesion in discourse, genre analysis of academic text and community services interpreting and translation. She has published on gender issues in academic publishing and on the interaction between author's editors and academics preparing both written and spoken texts.