If I asked a question here, and then used the result as part of some work I've done at university, should I reference the user who helped me?

If so, how?


  • $\begingroup$ There are general approaches for citing URLs, that should be covered in any modern style guide. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 0:31
  • $\begingroup$ Ok. So it's okay to reference an answer on Stackexchange? $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 0:32
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ When in doubt, always cite everything you can :) $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 0:34
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    $\begingroup$ I would ask the user in question; if the person wanted you to cite him/her, then I'd ask for that person's actual name and then communicate privately. I would never cite "ModdedBear on MSE," for instance, as this makes your work sound rather silly. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 0:37
  • $\begingroup$ You should read this and yes you have to reference since SE owns the copyright. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Mar 17 '15 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that the writer retains the copyright, but grants a licence to SE to use the text under CC-BY-SA. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 10:43
  • $\begingroup$ @NajibIdrissi if you authored the content, you dont have to site. If someone else authors it, you do. In the link I provided, SE mentions this. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Mar 17 '15 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I think you're right @dustin. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ @crash this a pretty problematic way of approaching the issue. I would strongly adise against going about it that way. I do not see how you could ever justify not to quote somebody that you would have quoted had they given you their real name. As soon as you ask and they reply: please quote under my displayname, I think you must comply. (There are varied SE related precedences too, I would not worry too much about "sound silly". And then, plenty of people quote Bourbaki.) $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Mar 17 '15 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @quid Those are fair points. I answered a question like this that was well-received, but I did not elaborate enough in my comment I suppose. 1) I would ask the user first, 2) if they don't care, then I would still acknowledge MSE, 3) if they request to be cited, I would request a real name; I'm not going to cite "Squirtle" in a professional publication. I would make a general citation just as in the link I provided and/or hyperlink the question on which I received help. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ @quid This may be too fine a point to quibble about, but your comment had to do with quoting someone--not giving someone credit. Those two are very different in publishing. If you quote someone verbatim, then, of course, you must somehow cite that person specifically, regardless of how it looks. However, if you simply received help from the person, then an acknowledgment is sufficient enough "credit" in most cases, even if the acknowledgment does not reference the user specifically. That's why authors almost always list their emails in articles--to provide a way for follow up. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @crash I continue to consider this as rather odd. The difference in your second comment is certainly relevant. OP talks about "reference" which I think might suggest they are thinking about the references. Further, I still do not understand you issue with citing a pseudonym. There is a recent paper in the Annals of Math. signed D. H. J. Polymath, would you not cite that either? Or how would you cite it? $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Mar 17 '15 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ @quid I don't have an issue with citing a pseudonym so long as it is understood that what is being cited is clearly a pseudonym; furthermore, the pseudonym has to be appropriate (lots of subjectivity in that evaluation, obviously); for example, there's a user on MSE with uname Kim Jong Un. I don't care what that user has contributed--I'm not citing that in my paper. If you really are not sure about what to do, then consult the publishing firm's legal team at which you plan to publish. But that seems a bit drastic. I'd cite the pseudonym you referenced though and provide a link for follow-up. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ @crash Legal questions are rather not my concern. For clearly a pseudonym: What about Arthur Besse? Given that there are math papers published by a Kim Jong Uhm and a Kim Jong Uhn; what is your assumption that Kim Jong Un is a pseudonym even based on? $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Mar 17 '15 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ @quid I actually communicated with that user directly--s/he said it was based on the dictator in North Korea, which is obvious enough. I'm not going to cite that. I think what I have outlined is exhaustive enough and fair for going about things in most cases. At this point, it really becomes a matter of personal opinion. $\endgroup$ Mar 17 '15 at 20:43

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