I am translating an academic paper to English. However, most of the sources cited at the end, are in other languages (e.g. Russian). Do I need to translate the list of references into English as well?

  • 1
    I agree that it's a duplicate, and the consensus there seems to be "it depends on the citation style". Personally as a reader, I like to see a translated title (as well as the original) to give an idea of what the paper's about.
    – Flyto
    Jun 25, 2018 at 10:33
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    May of the prominent Russian journals have a regular translation series. I would also mention the bibliographical data of the translation, if known. Jun 25, 2018 at 11:56
  • I disagree with the duplicate status, but the user needs to explain what the translation is for before anyone can tell her if the citations need to be translated. Jun 25, 2018 at 12:41
  • I edited your post to spell out the language names, as using the ISO codes is unnecessary and a little confusing (and also properly spelled lowercase). Please edit if you meant a language besides Russian. Jun 25, 2018 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


You need to keep the reference in the original language, so that people can find it if they want to look for it. However, it's also useful for the readers to have the titles translated into English, so they can understand what they mean. Many journals specify exactly how you should cite foreign-language references this in their style guides, and many do say that you should include both translated and original titles.

To take an extreme example, Google translates the book title

Winning Ways for your Mathematical Plays

into German as

Gewinnmöglichkeiten für Ihre mathematischen Spiele

(which, with my limited knowledge of German, I think is a reasonably good translation). Looking these words up in the dictionary might then produce the literal translation back into English of

Profit Opportunities for your Math Games,

from which it would be moderately hard to identify the correct source.

Another answer suggests (especially if it your own article you're translating) replacing foreign-language sources with equivalent English ones. I think this is intellectually dishonest, as a source that's cited in the original should also be cited in the translation. However, I don't see anything wrong with adding equivalent English sources, along with a note that they were added in translation. (There isn't any requirement that you do this, of course, but it would be of help to the reader.)

  • Also, in some fields, there is an expectation of knowing (or at least mostly understanding) certain languages. Those generally don't require any translation. For example, as someone who works with Spanish, Iwould never think to translate Romance language sources. Most of my readers will know or be familiar enough with French, Portuguese, Latin, Italian for it to not be necessary (we also tend not to translate our quotes from those either). Jun 25, 2018 at 19:42

The general principle here is to think about your reader. Imagine a person reading the translated article who needs to refer to one of the sources. Would it be beneficial for them if the source is translated to the language they can read?

Yes, it probably would be beneficial, so yes, consider translating / transliterating the references. Also, provide a doi / direct link to the source if possible. If you are also an author of the original paper, consider taking another look on the sources to identify those which are more likely to be accessible for your new wider audience. Consider removing references available exclusively in Russian and replacing them with equivalent references available in English translations. Your main aim at this stage should be to make your paper readable, not to self-promote your past papers.

Also, contact the editor / secretary of your target journal for clarification.

  • Please clarify my understanding of your answer. Are you recommending translating all the cited sources if possible? What if the paper has cited tens of sources in other languages (e.g. RU), are you recommending translating all those tens of sources?
    – Nobody
    Jun 25, 2018 at 10:00
  • It may be convenient for the reader, but in my discipline it never happens. For one thing, it requires that the reader trusts your translation. If the author uses that reference to support her or his argument, and that same author also controls the translation, then you can see the trouble that may come from that. Jun 25, 2018 at 10:03
  • @scaaahu I understood "sources cited at the end" as "bibliography" and I recommended translating the references (journal names and article titles) into English. It is not practical to translate actual papers, of course, so I recommended replacing them with more accessible references if appropriate. Jun 25, 2018 at 11:36
  • Thanks for the clarification and the edit to further clarify.
    – Nobody
    Jun 25, 2018 at 11:50
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    -1: "Consider removing references available exclusively in Russian and replacing them with equivalent translations." This is intellectually dishonest. If the original paper referred to a source, you should keep the source in the references. It's a good idea to add an equivalent English source, but you should note that this was added in translation. Jun 25, 2018 at 12:56

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