The scenario:

  • in an article, found a point/claim/fact that would fit/support perfectly a broader point I'm trying to construct (@Related works section)

The dilemma:

  • Whom to cite?
    • a) only the article in which I found the [whole] point/claim/synthesis
    • b) the original sources, the author cited during his construction of the point
    • c) both i.e. the complete paragraph or part of the paragraph that serves my purpose

Pros and cons:

  • a)

    • Pro: I pay proper respect to the author from whom I learnt about the sources/facts. + the article is the only source I really read
    • Con: I would have single reference to support the point, while in reality there are several relevant sources (used by the author)
  • b)

    • Pro: I would provide the reader with deeper/direct references for further researching
    • Con: it is a form of plagiarism, as it would seem that it was me that read all the sources and drawn conclusion presented. The conclusion is not the issue, I discuss that particular point anyway (in my paper), but the first part bothers me: it wasn't me that studied all that sources, but the author
  • c) seems to me as just solution but I'm not sure how it should be formulated so it is clear for reader what is reference (let it be: [1]) from the article and what (sub) references are just taken from the article (let them be: [1.a] [1.b])

Alternatively, (and this is what I would normally do):

  • I follow his references, find the articles, read them and then use (some or all of) them together with other references (known to me from earlier research). The issue with such practice: too often there is no justification for referencing his article -- and it seems not to be not right i.e. smells to me like a tiny plagiarism-sin.

The example:


To achieve the first goal, the crawler has to visit as many web sites as possible, and to achieve the second goal, the crawler has to maintain the freshness of the previously visited web sites, which can be achieved by re-visiting such web sites in a routinely manner. In the following, the most frequently used re-visiting policies are summarized: (1) Uniform policy: in this policy, the entire web sites are downloaded at each visit (Bhute and Meshram, 2010; Pichler et al., 2011; Leng et al., 2011; Sharma et al., 2012; Singh and Vikasn, 2014). Although this approach enriches the databases, it requires a large processing time. (2) Proportional policy: this policy is performed in many ways, such as: • Downloading only the pages that have a rank more than a threshold value specified by the crawler administrator (Bhute and Meshram, 2010;)

From the article:

ALQARALEH, S., RAMADAN, O., & SALAMAH, M. (2015). Efficient watcher based web crawler design. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 67(6), 663–686. http://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-02-2015-0019

In my article I want to explain/define these two policies, together with his remarks, my own remarks, and, potentially, to expand (support) it with other sources.

  • 8
    Most often I see sth along the lines: "blah blah blah; see [1] and references therein".
    – user68958
    Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 12:08
  • 1
    @corey979: exactly what I thought of - why put that as a comment instead of an answer
    – Sascha
    Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 12:21
  • Thanks guys! btw. on this forum I still have no "comment up vote" privilege, otherwise I would use it
    – hardyVeles
    Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 18:17

2 Answers 2


I am considering only the case where there was substantial synthesis in the article encountered. Merely encountering a relevant citation in another source has already been discussed in other questions.

Since synthesis is an intellectual contribution itself, Option b) of only citing the foundational sources and recreating the synthesis without crediting the intermediate author is plagiarism, and thus out of consideration.

Option a), citing the synthesized claim without delving into the details or the sources it is based on, is acceptable. It has to be acceptable, otherwise the rabbit hole never ends. Considerations for whether to use it include the following:

  1. Is the point made a very important one for the paper we are writing? Does it merits being discussed at length?

  2. Is the point a contentious one? Would explaining HOW the author we cite arrived at it help convince our own readership of it?

  3. Are we subject to restrictive page limits?

  4. Would the authors-at-arms-length benefit from the extra citations/credit?

Option c), crediting everyone involved, is obviously always acceptable. As an example of how this could look like, take the following:

Skywalker (12 ABY) explains that the light side of the force should be preferred, drawing from earlier arguments put forth by Yoda (3 BBY) and Kenobi (6 BBY). Skywalker particular stresses the merits of Yoda's observation that 'there is no try, there is only do' (Yoda 3 BBY).


As often when it comes to writing it is key to think about this from the viewpoint of the reader. Write and cite so that it is as easy as possible for the reader to get the point and find the relevant literature. If you are unsure how to do this think of your past self as the reader, i.e. think about how you would have wanted the passage to be when you did not know much about the field you are writing about.

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