I am preparing a CS conference presentation and wondering how can I handle the references. I am thinking about three different possibilities:

  1. Ignore them!
  2. Just list them at the end of the presentation
  3. List them and cite them within the presentation.

I chose the first option since anyone interested can go and check the whole set of references in the actual paper.

Does this mean not crediting the others for their work? How this is usually handled in CS conferences?


6 Answers 6


If the slides you're using are going to have "independent life,"—in other words, if you're going to make them available separately from the conference paper (on your website, for instance), then the citations should be included as part of the presentation. I would follow posdef's example and place the citations on the same slide as where it's needed; this will save the reader from having to flip back and forth between different parts of the presentation or between the presentation and the paper.

Not including the citations is a bad idea, because it means you are potentially failing to give people the credit they deserve for ideas that were originally theirs. Even though it's "just" a conference presentation doesn't mean that the rules of crediting people for their work should be ignored. (Citing the work of others is also the right thing to do from the perspective of "playing nice with others." Taking credit for other people's work can make them leerier of working with you.)


I don't know if there is a specific way within the CS community but the way most established seniors seem to do in my field is to note down the reference at the bottom of the slide where they refer to someone's results/figures.

I think this is a better approach than to list them all in the end, because the audience gets the reference together with the content, that way you don't have to puzzle the references and the content 6 months after you attended the presentation.

If the people you are referring to are people you have had collaborations or communication with, it would not hurt to have them listed in a "thanks to" or more formally "acknowledgements" slide.

Hope it helps


Applied mathematician here; my solution is putting them on the same slide as the material. I use formats such as [Someone '99], [Lin WW, '00] (initials are almost mandatory for some common surnames), [Doe et al, book '04], [P and SomeoneElse, preprint '12] (my name is always abbreviated to an initial, which is a common convention). I find it a good compromise between clarity and shortness: I don't need to include a full sentence, but only the names in brackets.

You can use a different color or font to differentiate them visually from the text --- preferably something light but readable, a color that does not attract much attention.

I use them sparingly nevertheless --- overall I have typically less than 10 such citations in a 15-20 slide talk.

This makes immediately clear whether I think that a theorem is new/mine or not. Its original authors could be in the audience, so I think it's important to acknowledge them properly.

If your slides are already so cramped that these citations won't fit, then you have a much bigger problem. :)

  • If you do this, it's also good practice to include a bibliography slide at the end listing these in a more extended standard format, just as in a paper. Commented May 13, 2020 at 18:00
  • @ComptonScattering I disagree. I don't see the advantage; I find that usually this information is sufficient to locate relevant papers. Commented May 13, 2020 at 19:04
  • Per, aeismail your slides have a life of their own, and your citations should be intelligible in your absence. Having said that, including a bibliography is good practice, and is not universally observed. Commented May 13, 2020 at 19:24

As a policy, it is a far better idea to always add a relevant citation, in small font, below every figure, formula, quotation, etc, that is not yours and which you are building upon. I do this even in lectures, which students always get after. The cost of adding a citation in small font is really small, but by not doing it you risk exposing yourself to unnecessary troubles because you might:

  • give the impression of being careless or oblivious about the work of others
  • enrage the occasional professor attending your lecture, when s/he sees her/his work is not acknowledge
  • create unnecessary tensions with colleagues
  • be accused of plagiarism

Do yourself a favor: cite even in presentations.


I'll first discuss the advantages and disadvantages for each of your options on how to handle citations:

  1. Ignore them!

    • pro
      • This technique saves time and space.
      • Most often, the citations go unnoticed during talks (and I have been criticized once or twice for showing any citations on the slides in the first place).
    • contra
      • You make way for the criticism that you neglect to give credit to other authors.
      • If your slides are ever accessible outside of your talk, having the citations somewhere comes in handy.
  2. Just list them at the end of the presentation

    • pro
      • The slide needs not be shown during your normal talk, but can be considered a part of your "backup slides" that you show only upon request. Thus, both people who do not like to see citations during a talk, as well as people who expect a certain citation information, will be happy.
      • Citations that are referred to several times during the talk have to be listed just once (hence the reader does not get confused and wonder whether they have already seen that citation).
      • The citations can be written using a readable (in a projection!) font size rather cramped into another slide with a tiny unreadable font.
      • It does not matter how many extra slides you fill with citations, so you can even include rather elaborate info (a full list of authors rather than just the first one and et al., the DOI, direct links, ...).
    • contra
      • Readers have to switch back and forth between pages/slides while reading slides with citations (though the same is valid for a paper and it doesn't seem to bother anyone there).
  3. List them and cite them within the presentation.

    • pro
      • Citations are immediately available while reading the slide that refers to them.
    • contra
      • Space is scarce on slides, which means that the citations have to be written with a tiny font, probably too tiny to be legible during the talk.
      • As you need to save space, you will tend to using the shortest possible citation format, such as 1st author et al. rather than 1st author, 2nd author, 3rd author, 4th author, thereby arguably reducing the credit you give.
      • The citation clutters the slide (which should in general only contain the most important keywords/key statements rather than all details the presenter talks about) and thereby draws attention away from the contents of your slide (e.g. how a concept presented in related work works, understanding of which is required for the next slides).
      • The citations either disrupt the reading flow on the slide (when in between slide contents), or they gather at the very bottom as footnotes (where, depending on the room the talk is given in, they can only be seen by the first few rows of the audience, anyway).

To conclude, I vastly prefer technique 2, Just list them at the end of the presentation over all others.

That leaves the question whether or not to include citation references ([1], [2], ...) within your slides. This depends mainly on the purpose of your references:

  • If whatever information you are presenting is self-contained, such as a concept fully explained with a single concise graphic, the reference needs to be there mainly for the sake of giving credit. In that case, you can go the way of some books by not including a citation reference on the slide (thereby reducing unnecessary clutter) and instead only relying on a backreference on the citation slide (bottom-left image on slide 16).
  • If the information you are presenting is a summary of someone else's work (for example when presenting only a conclusion or statement without presenting the proof it is based upon), or even an explicit pointer to more information, do include a citation reference right next to the information, both to signify that there is more to be found about your statement and making finding the additional information convenient.

Not including citations would be a very bad idea, asides from the reasons given above, there is a risk that someone would claim that you are plagiarising their work - even though you aren't. I have seen this happen before.

Perhaps place an in-slide (akin to in-text) reference on each slide and a slide at the end with the references, or if possible, make a clear citation to the main reference used on the slides where necessary.

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