Some time ago, I went to a workshop/conference on the specific topic in my field. It was a small event, with not proceedings published. I would like to discuss it in an upcoming paper, in order to state that:

it was discussion with X and Y, spurred by the workshop on Z, which initiated this new direction of research.

in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due. Now, I could leave it in the text, or cite it as “private communication from X at Z”, or cite it directly in my references:

Workshop on Z, Big City, Country (2012)

Journal style doesn't say anything of this, but generally calls for references with superscript numbers. So, what is the best option to cite a whole workshop/conference? (and not a specific presentation)

4 Answers 4


You could mention the people with whom you discussed in the acknowledgements "thanks X and Y for helpful/... discussions" and cite the conference in the text.

To cite it in the correct style, I would recomment that you contact the editorial office and ask. I once asked about the style of referencing a thesis and recieved an answer very fast, so this is the safest way in my opinion.


The issue here is that conversations are not normally "on the record." The point of a citation is verification: you are giving credit by citing the "original source" that you are using. Since you would not really be pointing them to material actually associated with the workshop, you should cite "Private Communication" with the involved individuals—although you could cite the event as the "location and date" fields for the communication.

  • "The point of a citation is verification: you are giving credit" Those are two very different things, not one point. Dec 24, 2020 at 2:26

Typically, only published sources should be referenced. Exceptions may be personal communication and reports. Quoting, for example, a discussion during a meeting is therefore quite difficult unless you can quote the persons (and that meeting) as personal communication. The problem is that the discussion or statement(s) are not officially recorded somewhere. There is of course nothing wrong with simply printing out the occurence of the discussion at the meeting in full text. I am not sure if I have seen it but something along the lines your first example with names (and titles) clearly indicated. Just remember to clear the statement with the persons you quote and do not forget to state the date of the conversation/conference.

  • "Typically, only published sources should be referenced. Exceptions may be personal communication and reports." That's not logically consistent. Dec 24, 2020 at 2:25
  • @AnonymousPhysicist, In what way? Dec 26, 2020 at 16:49
  • Something cannot be "only" and also have "exceptions." Also, the first sentence is just wrong. Dec 27, 2020 at 8:43
  • @AnonymousPhysicist OK, in my mind the word "typically", which preceeds the word only modifies the second word so that it taken together reads something similar to "in most cases" or "most of the time". With this in mind I do not see your issue. If you feel the wording is still wrong please feel free to change it as long as the gist of the answer is not lost.. Dec 29, 2020 at 21:23

Discussions with peers are the most common way to produce new ideas, insights, and actual work that gets published.

  • Peers that have been crucial for the paper are co-authors
  • Peers that contributed to some important ideas that spurred the paper, but not the actual paper, should go in acknowledgment section:"The authors wish to thank John Doe for..."
  • Peer whose unpublished ideas are quoted in your work should be referred in a citation as "Doe,J, private communications".

If you want to specify that the workshop X has been particularly helpful, then you can cite "Doe,J, private communications at workshop X". Of course some journals may ask you to revise this logic, but you can stil use it as a starting point for submission.

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