I am currently writing my master's thesis using LaTeX and am struggling with the citations, specifically when referring to software that I've used. I am mostly unsure of how precise the citations should be.

For example, I used TensorFlow 2.7 for the bulk of my work, but I'm not sure if I should create separate bibliographic entries for individual pages in the documentation or refer to the documentation as a whole.

If I treat each webpage separately I would have to add 20-40 references to my project.

Note: My advisor did not give me any specific feedback regarding citations when I asked.

Edit: I am talking about online software documentation. Each function is described on a different webpage. I am unsure of whether I should treat it as individual webpages or if it is sufficient to say that I referred to the documentation. My thesis is for computer science.

Edit: After some discussion with my advisor, he recommended that I removed any detailed discussion of the implementation. He preferred that I instead discuss any mathematical implications instead.


2 Answers 2


Honestly this is a tricky question. I believe I would proceed as follows:

  • Look for a "single document" documentation: sometimes, documentation is bundled into a single pdf that you can download, link and archive (think https://github.com/coq/coq/releases/download/V8.15.0/coq-8.15.0-reference-manual.pdf, with a version number "embedded" in the link / title of the document). In this case, proceeds as usually by using \cite[Section 4]{my-ref}.
  • Look for a "one-webpage documentation": if it exists (think https://pandoc.org/MANUAL.html ), use it, and refer to sections using \cite[Templates]{my-ref}. It is not as good as a direct link to https://pandoc.org/MANUAL.html#templates , but it does the job.
  • If all the documentation is scattered on multiple pages, then I am afraid that the best course of action is, indeed, to create one reference per link. This assumes that the overall organization of the documentation does not change too frequently, so make sure you look for "permalinks" if they exist.

This is clearly not ideal and tedious, but anyone reading your manuscript (including you!) will be grateful for this low-level of precision, that makes checking the documentation a breeze.

Ideally, there would be some mechanism like \cite[#templates]{my-ref} to refer to https://pandoc.org/MANUAL.html#templates, but I don't think it exists yet.

If you are wondering about the technical aspect of your question ("how to handle those citations in bibtex?"), I would recommend posting to tex.stackexchange.com/ where I think your questions will be favorably received.

  • 1
    It would surely be better to cite the PDF version - pandoc.org/MANUAL.pdf - when there is one, and then just refer to a page or section number the same way as within a traditional book? (Remember to include date or version number!)
    – Lou Knee
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 23:34

If you quote from the documentation then a citation should accompany each quote. For paraphrases of some limited material an overall citation of the work might be fine or not. It depends on how you write the thesis.

But, just because you read some page in the documentation and rely on it for your work doesn't imply citation, but might imply acknowledgement of the help the work provided.

I wonder a bit about how valuable a page-specific citation would be in any case for such things. The documentation might occur in several forms. And, printing an electronic resource in A4 vs 8-1/2 by 11 will give different page numbers for some parts.

  • I'm not directly quoting any of the documentation, but certain descriptions about usage directly impacted decisions I made when building my models. By "page" I did mean webpage, I will edit my question to remove this ambiguity. Thank you. Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 13:30

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