I read the topics that talk about how to cite people but am still a bit unsure what to do in this situation. I apologise if it's too similar to the other threads.

I'm writing my MSc thesis at the moment, and Googling for things I'm stuck on has led me to a lot of threads on this website which were useful to me. It seems like a lot of people are working through the same papers that I am reading. Almost always it was the same person (who has no contact details on his profile) who answered all the questions, so would it be sufficient if I acknowledged him via something like "I also want to thank (first name) (last name) for their work at [1]" where [1] cites MSE. I would put that in my acknowledgements.

I know my advisor would really not like me to reference an online forum so a link to individual threads would be difficult to do.


1 Answer 1


Perhaps a slightly more specific way to phrase it could be:

I also would like to thank [First Name] [Last Name] (User [user number]) for his/her work at Math.StackExchange, for example [1].

where [1] links to one of the threads that you found useful. Not everybody here uses their real first and last names, in which case you can cite their username instead. The [user number] is the string of numbers in the URL of the link to a user's profile. For example yours is 36455, and mine is 1543. Citing user number instead of just name/username can mitigate against the eventuality that the user changes his username in the future. Providing one link can help mitigate against the case where the user decides to delete his account, and so his posts become anonymised.

And of course, instead of "for example [1]" you can also use a footnote.

Lastly, while you should certainly follow the rules set forth by your advisor and/or the journal publisher (if you are preparing a journal article), one should note that citing an online resource is becoming more common now.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe it should also be noted that thanking people and assigning credit is a different type of reference than citing a result. As such, directly citing some part of MSE for this might not be needed, as you can just thank the person for his help on MSE and nobody should complain that they cannot find the exact place you mention. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ To add on what @Tobias wrote I intend to thank the users involved in some thread, referring to user numbers when real name is not available, and referring to the exact post with a link in a footnote rather than a full citation. It is just as reasonable, I suppose to use \cite though. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks. Actually Willie, I was referring to you in my post! So I guess I better take your advice. $\endgroup$
    – arzela
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 9:17

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