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I found a preprint from 2012 in the internet, how can I know if this preprint is now published or not?

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  1. (Added after @Wolpertinger's suggestion) Does the preprint itself include a link to the final paper? Arxiv abstract pages have a "journal ref" field where the author can include such a link, and some publishers mandate that a journal link must be added to preprints after publications.
  2. Search on literature databases (Google Scholar, Scopus, etc.) for a paper with the same title.
  3. Maybe the title has changed? Search for publications by the same authors to double-check. Has another paper with the same authors appeared in the years immediately following the preprint's date? Author changes are less frequent than title changes, in my experience, and most of the times authors are added, not removed.
  4. If everything fails, try a full-web search for a sentence or two that appear in the paper.

If all these attempts fail, you may safely assume that it hasn't been published. If you want to be 120% sure, send an e-mail to one of the authors.

That said, note that a preprint still counts as "previous literature", and you should cite it exactly as you would cite a published paper. However, be a little more wary about blindly trusting the results contained in it: there may be a reason this hasn't been published, in the end.

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    If it's in computer science, the go-to source in step 1 would be DBLP. Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 12:29
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    +1. Might be worth adding a step "zero", that is to check whether the preprint features a link to the published article. On arxiv, for example, authors can add such a link upon publication. Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 21:28
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    @Wolpertinger Done, thanks! Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 8:53
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    be a little more wary about blindly trusting the results I'd say be a lot more wary—I'm aware of preprints on arXiv which are fatally flawed, yet the only hint a casual reader would get is that they haven't been published in a peer-reviewed journal after many years. That said, I'm also aware of a non-trivial and useful result that only appears in a preprint, and has been excluded from the peer-reviewed version, even though it is perfectly correct.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 12:29

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