22

Specifically, I want to cite a blog post in a peer reviewed paper. The post was extremely helpful towards how I formulated the problem. The blog was not breaking-edge research; more a re-write of existing concepts. However I borrowed the abstractions and representations that the author made in the post.

For example, I want to say: the mathematical representations herein borrow from prior work by author.

Is it advisable to cite such sources? Should this be a footnote? Or there is no need to attribute credit at all? How would you do it?

6
  • 3
    Does the blog author have any journal articles covering the material?
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 22 at 15:04
  • 3
    @JonCuster no. They do not have any peer reviewed publications. The author is a hobbyist in that field.
    – hazrmard
    Jun 22 at 15:05
  • 33
    Well then, citing the blog is the right thing to do. And, once the paper is accepted, you might reach out to them to let them know.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 22 at 15:15
  • 3
    You could reach out to them and ask if they were interested in collaborating with you.
    – arne
    Jun 23 at 12:52
  • 10
    (Somewhat) related: There's a well known paper that cites the work of "Anonymous 4chan poster". Attributing ideas to their authors is the correct thing to do, even when they're posted on the toxic garbage fire that is 4chan. Blogs are no different.
    – JS Lavertu
    Jun 23 at 15:17

3 Answers 3

59

Actually you must cite it to avoid plagiarism. It doesn't matter whether it is peer reviewed or not, the ideas are those of another and you need to avoid suggesting otherwise.

But, using non peer reviewed material puts the burden on yourself to verify the accuracy of what was said there.

On the other hand, some things are treated as common knowledge and needn't be cited. Normally, though, such things tend to appear in several places and the blog author may just have been stating things commonly known and accepted. The fact that you found them there is incidental.

But if the ideas are, in any way, original with the blogger, cite them as you would any other. Citations of web material should normally include the date of last access since such things can change.

6
  • 3
    Thank you. Yes the author presented material nowadays in grad level textbooks. They re-phrased it in a way I found very digestible. So no, there was no academic/scientific novelty, but it helped me understand and talk about the concepts better.
    – hazrmard
    Jun 22 at 15:41
  • 13
    @hazrmard I am unsure, but it seems "it's possible to find in another source" is a generous definition of common knowledge. If the author presented a useful synthesis, rather than just restating another source, I would consider that a helpful contribution, like an expository paper. Jun 23 at 1:40
  • 3
    @JustinMeiners very well put. I was leaning towards citing exactly for that reason: their writing meaningfully contributed to my work. I had developed the impression that citing non-research/hobbyist stuff, instead of original research, "diminishes" a paper. Quite irrational, I think? So I wanted to poll people in the field.
    – hazrmard
    Jun 23 at 15:38
  • 3
    This seems very wishy-washy to me. I would at least change that last paragraph to start with "But if the ideas or presentation are...". Wording, variable choices, formatting, even conceptual ordering, are all worth citing. Moreover, it's certainly allowed to cite more sources than strictly necessary. If you find a source helpful, others may also. When in doubt, just cite.
    – Mike
    Jun 23 at 20:05
  • 6
    And, when you do cite a blog post, consider submitting the page(s) to archive.org/web to be archived at the time you make the citation. (This is especially important if the page(s) haven't been archived yet).
    – dbc
    Jun 23 at 20:43
6

I don't know what you legally have to do in relation to a useful and seemingly "new" representation of existing well-known ideas.

But if your own work benefited significantly from abstractions and/or representations used by a blogger - and you have not readily been able to find similar ones in good range of relevant texts - then professionally you have an obligation to acknowledge the source.

Maybe you could contact the author beforehand and ask him/her if they have any research publication that briefly elaborates on and/or employs the concepts/representations used in the blog. You could then cite the approach you adopted via a reference superscript in your own paper.

If no such research publication exists, I think you should cite the blog page, date of online publication and author.

2
  • 2
    Perhaps make sure archive.org/web has a snapshot of the blog, so if the link dies, people can plug the URL into the wayback machine. (oh, dbc already commented this on Buffy's answer.) Jun 25 at 10:53
  • @Peter Cordes +1 Absolutely !
    – Trunk
    Jun 25 at 13:27
3

You cite anything that you didn't create yourself. If you talk to a colleague in the cafeteria and gain some insight from that which becomes part of your work, you cite it as "personal conversation". Citations are there so that others can reproduce your sources, but mostly to make sure that we can distinguish between your work and anyone else's work. If reproducing a source is difficult, the latter is still important to avoid plagiarism.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .