I'm writing my BA thesis in computer science at a larger company and need to reference a confidential statistics report that has been made available to me in my reference list.

So my question is, how does one normally cite a confidential source? I assume you would somehow include the contact details of someone at the company with access to the material?

I'm using the Vancouver reference style by the way. Cheers!

Edit: I should clarify that the confidential "report" that was made available to me really isn't a report, but rather just raw data. It doesn't have an author or even a title, only site visitor statistics, thereby my confusion on how to reference it.

3 Answers 3


Before you do anything with the confidential data, you should have cleared its use with the company in question. Giving away the data in any form without their express permission could get you into a lot of trouble.

That said, if the report containing the data is a internal company technical report, it should be cited as such in a bibliography. This provides enough information for a person to track it down, although you may want to state that it is not available to the general public.

  • Thanks, that's what I thought. How would the actual reference list element look though, could you give me an example?
    – yzfr1
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 13:07
  • In journals I would submit to, it would probably be something like: "Author. Technical Report No. XX-YYYY. City: Company, Year." Don't know the Vancouver style, so you'd have to adapt it to that format.
    – aeismail
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 14:51
  • It doesn't really have a report number or even an author, it's just raw data, see my edit. I apologise for not being clear from the beginning. Any ideas?
    – yzfr1
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 18:14
  • 1
    Well, now it becomes the dreaded "Personal Communication." You cite the sender, and the date of the communication. Obviously, someone might ask for this, in which case you will need to redact the data, but show that the correspondence took place. (Unless you can't even do that—in which case that data probably shouldn't be in the thesis in the first place!)
    – aeismail
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 20:49
  • 1
    Normally, it's just the name of the individual and the date of the communication. But that depends on the bibliography style.
    – aeismail
    Commented Jun 17, 2013 at 9:49

It may be best to just cite the source as if it were any other reference, then include in your acknowledgements and/or a footnote more details on how you acquired the data and who to contact if it is indeed available to others.


I have two answers to this.

Once, as a researcher, I had the pleasure to use some unpublished data in my forecast. (My paper was about the forecast method itself.) I wrote something along 42. John Doe. In private communication. 1899, also citing a report that was partially based on the same data. John Doe was the person, who gave me the data. (Thanks, "John"!)

On the other hand, as a supervisor to some BSc-theses that are written at commercial companies, the students are conflicted with internal data all the time. It is hard to cite internal data, esp. in a public thesis. The current way of doing it is to perform an "expert interview". You talk with some higher-ups at the company, they provide you both with data and with interpretations of the data.

Then you put the final interview in the appendix of the thesis, it is the primary information source, to which you can refer in other parts of your thesis.

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