To Cite Yourself or Not To Cite Yourself: That Is The Question! -->

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To Cite Yourself or Not To Cite Yourself: That Is The Question!

Using a thought or idea that you have previously communicated in your past course work may come up in the course of your studies here at Walden U. According to APA citation standards, anytime you reference a thought or idea taken from another source, you cite the source. So, does this mean that you cite yourself? An important factor to consider here is that you are a student. As a student, finding yourself in an instance in which all the conditions align just right for you to cite yourself is  truly uncommon. Therefore, let’s demystify the act of citing yourself and take a look at what you should do if you are faced with the decision to cite yourself or not to cite yourself... For that is the question.    

To begin this investigation, let’s dig in a bit more to our most reliable source, the APA manual. According to the current APA 6th edition manual, “researchers do not present the work of others as their own (plagiarism),” and “they do not present their own previously published work as new scholarship” (p.16).  This makes sense, right? So, as a student involved in scholarly conversations, it would seem that you would want to cite yourself to avoid self-plagiarism.

However, an important part of this puzzle to keep in mind is that although you are a scholar participating in reading research and composing your findings, you are also a student learning and generating coursework. In being a student, the goal is that you will continue to generate new work as you build your studies and learn about your chosen field. Thus, it is not common for students to cite themselves because they are always applying their research and findings into discovering their assignments in new ways. 

As a student, your main goal is to create new boundaries as a learner. Even if you come across related course material and assignments within your specific field of study, your job is to continue to tackle your topic by finding fresh ways into interpreting your research and your assignments, and to extend yourself as you engage in critical thinking.

Best Practice: Consult with Your Faculty Member   

It is a best practice to consult with your faculty member and seek permission to cite yourself. The reason being is that there may be instances when citing yourself is not accepted. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you would like to cite a thought or idea you have previously conceived, I recommend sending your instructor a communication stating why you would like to reference a thought or idea you have made previously and your plan to apply it in a new way to the current assignment at hand. Await their response and always adhere to the direction of your faculty member.

A Rare Instance

In a rare instance, you may find that you originated a thought or idea from a previous assignment that is just so good and so applicable that you want to reference it in a current assignment and take it in a new and exciting direction. Then, in this case, you may consider citing your previous thought or idea. For example, say I came up with a cool take on applying adult learning theory to time management in previous coursework, and now I find that for my current course I am studying how to achieve an efficient schedule for a local business. I would like to reference my previous adult learning theory scheduling idea and apply it to my new local business assignment. This would be a good possible instance where I may consider citing myself. Keep in mind that my reference to my previous point would be comprised of only one or so sentences; notice the point I make where I’m citing myself is only one sentence long. Here is what it may look like.

“In looking at the company at large, the employees at the Greenwood Fitness Association (GFT) are experiencing significant scheduling problems. As a result, customer appointments have been missed. To solve the GFT scheduling problems, I propose designing a new scheduling system that would be based on adult learning theory (Lundberg, 2016). Specifically, I would like to apply the concept of choice from adult learning theory (Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy, 2011) and implement a scheduling system at GFT that would contain embedded choices. These choices would allow individual users to craft their own personalized schedules while still adhering to company mandates.” 


Lundberg, C. (2016). Innovative scheduling. Unpublished manuscript, Walden University.

Teaching Excellence in Adult Literacy. (2011). Adult learning theories. Retrieved from

Now the mystery is solved and the choice is yours! You now know how to go about the decision to cite yourself or notMay your learning journey continue to be rich, prosperous, and fruitful as you realize it through writing!

*Note: With any citation there must also be a references entry. Notice that the entry for when you cite yourself follows a familiar formula: Name + date + Title + Unpublished Manuscript + University Name

Christina Lundberg is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center and is driven by the desire to grow, shape, and develop a page to reach its highest potential. When she is not immersed in student papers, she enjoys dance classes, coffee shops, and time with her husband and son. 

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  1. What if you created a table to include in your own thesis just showing the structure of it. How do you cite the source under it? Is it OK to write 'elaborated by author', or 'self elaborated', or perhaps, 'own elaboration'; or is it the case to put your last name and initial? Thank you!

    1. Hi Liflecken,

      If the table is one you created, you wouldn’t need to cite yourself. However, you would want to label the table. You can read more about creating and labeling tables and figures on our website:

      We hope this helps!

  2. Hi! What if you're a student who is already a professional in another, trade-based field, and happen to be writing a research paper on that field? I'm an experienced sailor and a fully qualified professional instructor, who is writing a paper on the evolution of sailboats throughout history, and why some designs have persisted much better than others. But I can't find any sources about how many younger racers dislike certain boats/rigs, despite those boats' popularity in the pleasure-sailing world. The reasoning is already sourced (good rigs for reaching make upwind beating difficult, and in many races 50% or more of the time on the water is spent beating), but there are no sources for how actual racers feel about it. Is my first-hand experience acceptable here, or should I omit this bit entirely?

    Thank you,
    A Student

    1. Wow -- this is an excellent question! I guess my response would depend on the part this information plays in your project. You might consider looking into purchasing trends as they relate to age-of-consumer? Or you could try to collect information through a formal or informal survey? As an expert instructor, your experience could be useful for making suggestions regarding your own hypotheses. Maybe this could also work in a section where you propose additional research or potential for scholarship?

      This is such an interesting question--I hope you will reply back to let us know how it goes! Thanks for reading!