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I asked this question before on Stackoverflow, but it was closed as off-topic, so will try again here.

I'm writing a scientific article and a dissertation in biology, for which I used Python for simulations. Some people in our department, especially the "non-computer-people", don't know what Python is, so I want to reference something helpful. Open-Source scientific tools such as CellProfiler usually tell you how to reference them, but Python doesn't.

How is the Python language properly referenced? Are there any articles in journals available I could link to?

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I understand your consternation. Thank you for moving this. FWIW - r has a package to generate citations for each package e.g. citation("rmetadata"). The same format could be used for Python packages. Van Rossum, G. (2007). Python programming language. In USENIX Annual Technical Conference. As per the APA - "Do not cite standard office software (e.g. Word, Excel) or programming languages. Provide references only for specialized software. Ludwig, T. (2002). PsychInquiry [computer software]. New York: Worth." – Donnied Feb 16 '14 at 20:22
up vote 41 down vote accepted

In order to cite a programming language, a possible way is to cite the reference manual, including the version of the language you use (your approach might no longer work with the version of Python available in 20 years ...).

For instance, you can have a citation like:

Python Software Foundation. Python Language Reference, version 2.7. Available at

According to this thread, you can also cite the original CWI TR:

"G. van Rossum, Python tutorial, Technical Report CS-R9526, Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI), Amsterdam, May 1995."

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This is very helpful. Thank you! – Eekhoorn Nov 27 '12 at 10:32
+1 although I usually cite software as … software. It’s a publication, after all. Many citation managers might not recognise this as a citation type but the reason for this is that they’re stuck in the previous millenium, nothing more. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 27 '12 at 16:51

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