Sometimes a thread on StackExchange could help your research. A technical problem, an inspiring discussion or even an idea. How can I acknowledge this kind of contribution? (considering that many users on SE do not use real name and it is very difficult to reach them privately) Has anyone done that?

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    If you have the feeling that local community significantly contributed to you work, I guess you can acknowledge StackExchange community for valuable comments and inspiring ideas. If you have the feeling that only one user did, probably the best is to send him PM and discuss this directly. But I am curious if someone did this before. I have to admit that I did not, even though, I find SE very helpful. On the other hand, I never had the feeling that anyone should acknowledge me.
    – MasterPJ
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 12:24
  • @MasterPJ, Is it even possible to send a PM to SE user through SE itself?
    – wdg
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 12:52
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    As far as I know, it is impossible. (viz. metaSE1 or metaSE2 ). If you really want to contact the person I would suggest to use a comment below her or his post and after the exchange of the contacts happen, delete the comment.
    – MasterPJ
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 12:58
  • 2
    Related: meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/1876 and meta.math.stackexchange.com/q/1860
    – Mangara
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 14:21
  • 1
    Duplicate of this question? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/1580/… Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 14:37

3 Answers 3


EDITED according to the PiotrMigdal's comment

If you like to point out the SE contribution to your work I would suggest to acknowledge the community by any acknowledgement you consider suitable. For example:

The authors would like to express their appreciation to the Stack exchange, inc. community for many useful inputs and valuable comments.

or if you like you can be more specific

We would like to thank to community of Stack exchange, inc., especially, Cross Validated group (section?) for advices regarding the data processing and data visualization.

Or you can combine what ever you like.

If you think that only one user was the core of the contribution, you can mention only him or her.

Special thanks goes to Piotr Migdal, who significant contributed to the quality of this answer with his valuable and well-aimed comment.

In case the person would be (or would like to stay) anonymous and you would still like to acknowledge the contribution, you can write the acknowledgement to anonymous person (as well you can citate a source with unknown author). This happens typically when you refer to web-pages:

We would like to acknowledge the discussion regarding the deep learning algorithm at Stack exchange, inc. in Cross Validated section (Available at: https://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/83092/regression-in-deep-learning, Accessed: 44rd August 2010).

However, I think that much better would be to try to contact the person/people. You can do it either by contact info or by comments. They can be willing to step out of the anonymity for you or, what is more, have some further discussion on the topic of your interest.

And if you would like to express your gratitude, you can always contribute to SE :)

  • Did you suggest that SE users, by posting anonymously, give up the personal credit?
    – wdg
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:15
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    People here are not always anonymous (especially for research community, e.g. on MathOverflow). And the license is of StackExchange content CC-BY-SA, so it is not true that attribution does not matter. Moreover, I don't see why acknowledgement should be different from the real life one (where you can thank an university you were visiting for stimulating atmosphere, but when you benefit from comments by someone in particular, then you thank the person). Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:50
  • @wdg Every person can choose if he or she will include contact info into the profile description. By posting anonymously they sort of prevent linking between the post and themselves. If they give up the personal credit I do not know. I never thought that some one should acknowledge me. I feel satisfied when I can help, to be useful. If I would like to promote my person I would not do it here but at job or at any community I am recognized as a person not a user. But that is just my opinion, I should not make the post that subjective...
    – MasterPJ
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 8:42
  • @PiotrMigdal Thank you for the information. I did not know about the CC-BY-SA. You are absolutely write. It depends what do you think was the most helpful (community or user). My post was to subjective. I will change the answer accordingly.
    – MasterPJ
    Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 8:47

Most citation systems (e.g., MLA, Harvard, Chicago) have a means of referencing web pages. Therefore, if there are specific discussions and conversations that you can point to, then I would simply refer to those pages.

If not, however, I would probably just leave it to a statement in the Acknowledgments section, since there isn't an actual "public record" which can be cited.

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    If you decide to cite a Web page, please use a service such as perma.cc for the citation. You never know what can happen to a Web page in 3-5 years :-)
    – user7112
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 12:35
  • For a class assignment or presentation, it's probably not such a big deal. If it's a journal publication, then yes, definitely a good idea.
    – aeismail
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 12:46

Mathoverflow, which is the SE site for research mathematics, has a cite button, hidden inside the widget that pops up when you click "share". The citations it produces have the following form:

user1347 (https://mathoverflow.net/users/1347/user1347), Can one make Erdős's Ramsey lower bound explicit?, URL (version: 2009-11-02): https://mathoverflow.net/q/3789

@MISC {3789,
    TITLE = {Can one make Erdős's Ramsey lower bound explicit?},
    AUTHOR = {user1347 (https://mathoverflow.net/users/1347/user1347)},
    HOWPUBLISHED = {MathOverflow},
    NOTE = {URL:https://mathoverflow.net/q/3789 (version: 2009-11-02)},
    EPRINT = {https://mathoverflow.net/q/3789},
    URL = {https://mathoverflow.net/q/3789}

As you can see, the Bibtex is far from perfect (no escaping of non-latin characters and capitals, no \url command for links), but this could give you an idea.

More importantly, this still uses the username as "author", so it doesn't really answer your question. This is an issue that has also been discussed in several places on mathoverflow and math.stackexchange; see for instance the amusingly-named question how to acknowledge Bugs Bunny? and the meta.MSE thread linked there.

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