I noticed that (most?) articles do not include the date of publishing/writing.

For example see this paper (on researchgate.net).

If I click for a citation on that page, I see there the year listed as "2018". But in the article itself, there is no indication when it was written.

Why is that? Or did I miss something?

PS: To clarify, I am not asking about the duration of the work, but the information when the work was done (realizing that a single point in time can not be picked). For example if there is a paper about "Method for better battery capacity", then it is a substantial information whether it was written or published in 1899, 1989 or 2018.

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    Most articles do note the publication date. This one is an exception. Perhaps it is a preprint and not the version that was published in a journal. Dec 15, 2018 at 16:51
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    Are you asking why they don't state the duration of the work? Or why the PDF itself may not contain any date at all (even publication date)? I have found the latter to be a real problem -- if all I can find is the PDF, and the PDF has no date at all, I'm forced to use the most recent cited work as a proxy for the publication date.
    – cag51
    Dec 15, 2018 at 17:09
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    The cached CV of one of the authors lists the paper as "to appear in DST-CON 2009" which appears to be short for Data Storage Technology Conference. I couldn't find any more information online about that conference, nor any proceedings it might have published. But it does suggest that 2018 is wrong. Dec 15, 2018 at 17:10
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    Are you asking about that very paper? Then ask the authors. Next, "I noticed that (most?) articles do not include the date of publishing/writing" – first, what do you mean by article? A published article always has a date of publication. A preprint doesn't have to, but it's just it – a preprint. Second, I noticed that all articles do include the date of publishing – it's my word against yours. Do you have something to back up your claim?
    – user68958
    Dec 15, 2018 at 17:16
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    On the first page of the pdf file, it says "All content following this page was uploaded by Piya Kovintavewat on 28 May 2014.". Does that answer your question?
    – Nobody
    Dec 16, 2018 at 2:47

3 Answers 3


For most purposes, the publication date is more important than the date the work was done. There are some exceptions, but they are few. The author doesn't know the publication date when the work is done.

The publication date is a kind of meta-data about the publication, not precisely relevant to the work itself (most cases). That meta-data is maintained by the publisher, of course.

Some work, of course, is time dependent and so the authors will, then, likely say when data was gathered, and so on.

  • Still, it seems like it would be good practice for the final copy to have the year of publication, whether it's added by the publisher or the author.
    – cag51
    Dec 15, 2018 at 17:52
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    @cag51: The link the OP gives above is not the final copy. That is the author's preprint. The final copy would be in a journal or conference proceedings (possibly behind a paywall), and the date would be added by the publisher. Dec 24, 2018 at 14:07
  • Understood, but is the date always added? It happens quite often to me that I can only find one copy of a paper and it doesn't have a date. I suspect the answer is just that the date should always be added to publicly-available copies, but in practice things get missed.
    – cag51
    Dec 24, 2018 at 18:53
  • @cag51: Some papers never get published; other papers take years to get published; and for others, the published version is behind a paywall. If you can only find one copy of a paper on the web, it is probably a preprint. These days, if a paper has been published, there's usually a preprint on the web somewhere as well. And (unfortunately) many preprints don't have dates. Dec 25, 2018 at 0:56

Most of the published papers have the publication date/month along with the year. Authors sometimes do not include this information when they upload pre-prints on sites such as researchgate.


Why Not Include Month/Day?

By convention, when we cite an article, we almost always just use the year, since that’s a short enough chunk of time that most reference lists will not have duplicate short citations. When there are duplicates, we often use letters (e.g.) “Smith et al. (2018a)” and “Smith et al. (2018b)”. There usually isn’t a need to know the date more precisely.

What Is Included

Most (or all?) journals I’ve encountered do report this information: dates of initial submission, acceptance and publication. As others have said, preprint manuscripts are not the published version of the paper and therefore have no need to include this information.

There are cases, less frequent in the past century, wherein manuscripts have been published decades after they were written, or even posthumously. Often this was because the author thought their writings would be unpopular or even dangerous, so they waited for a time when society would be more receptive. In such cases, I would expect this information to be mentioned somewhere near the paper — perhaps in a preface section, an editor’s or publisher’s note, or — if nowhere else, on Wikipedia.

When In Doubt...

In modern academia, papers tend to be published soon after they are written — usually within a year or two of the paper being submitted. Previous versions of the paper (e.g. submissions to journals that did not accept that manuscript) don’t really count because they do not represent the manuscript’s final form. This is in part because science is a competitive venture, and scientists want their findings to be available to those who would use them as soon as possible.

It’s usually a safe bet to assume that a paper was written within a year or two of the publication date — unless you have reason to suspect otherwise, in which case you can usually do some additional digging to find out.

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