Stating your case

The most important realisation in presenting your case for tenure, promotion, or grant applications is to realise that every case is different.

Finding your pearls

We all have “pearls” in our research portfolio. You just need to find and polish them so they shine brightly. Of course sometimes you are prescribed to list a number of metrics, maybe total citation counts, or h-index, or your number of publications. However, even in that case you can always add additional information from Publish or Perish.

Worked example: two different profiles

Remember the comparison between my colleague Maria and myself? We had very similar records in terms of citations per year. However, I would suggest rather different ways of presenting our records to our best advantage.

Ground breaking contributions

As Maria, I would indicate that I had 10 articles that have gathered more than 25 citations per year and that five of my articles have gathered more than 500 citations (see below). I would also point out that I have made a number of ground breaking contributions very early in my career; Maria’s six most highly cited articles on a per year basis were all published shortly after her PhD completion.


However, I would also emphasise that several of my publications in the last five years (publications #7 and #8) also attract high levels of citations. I would probably not discuss co-authorships as this is not a particular strength of Maria’s record. One might consider pointing to well-known co-authors, but this is a double-edged sword. To some readers this is a very positive sign, others might wonder about the academic’s own contribution.

Sustained and single-authored contributions

As Anne-Wil, I would make a very different case, given that I do not have any articles with extremely high citation levels (i.e. above 500). I would, however, indicate that I have no less than 15 articles that have gathered more than 25 citations per year (see below).


I would also point out that my most highly cited work is largely first or single-authored and that much of it was published in the second half of my career, thus indicating that my impact has not slowed down after being promoted to Full Professor in 2006. That said; I would probably also emphasise that my PhD thesis (publication #14) and three articles resulting from it (#5, #11, #13) have also quite influential.

Creating effective stories

As I indicated in the introduction of the Publish or Perish book:

Citations are not only a reflection of the impact that a particular piece of academic work has generated. Citations can also be used to tell stories about academics, journals and fields of research. This book is meant to help you create effective stories.

So go ahead: find the pearls in your record, polish them and string them into a beautifully arranged necklace that presents your citation story.

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