How do you cite a paper whose preprint title differs from the published version?

It's not so uncommon that publishers ask the authors to change the name of paper in the publication process. This is after the paper is up on the arxiv, and so it already is known by its first title.

So how do you cite this paper with two titles? The default on Inspire is to just cite the published version from the few examples I could find. What if the original arxiv version has a snappier name, and a name by which the paper is just more well-known?

Also, aside from citing this paper directly, what would be the best way to list this kind of paper on your CV?

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    Publishers usually don't ask anything, it's reviewers that do. Aug 8, 2022 at 17:21
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    @FedericoPoloni Actually, in this case the title named a new mechanism, and our choice of name conflicted with a technicality in the publisher's guidelines. The title change had nothing to do with the reviewers.
    – Well...
    Aug 9, 2022 at 9:00

2 Answers 2


Generally, the journal-published version is the more authoritative version going forward. Cite that one, even if you like the preprint's title better. The title is completely irrelevant to what gets cited.

If something is available in the preprint that is later left out of the final version, it's okay to still cite the preprint, though I'd certainly consider citing both if some aspect of what is cited is in the final version.

For a CV, I'd also list the published version and omit preprint versions of papers that have a published version.

  • 1
    Indeed. A "fancy title" should be of little importance to one doing a citation, even if it has been used by others.
    – Buffy
    Aug 8, 2022 at 15:40
  • It's standard practice in my field to list both the published version and preprint versions on our CV, and I typically include links to both. Will it look weird if one link goes to an arxiv preprint that has a different title? I don't want people thinking I put the wrong link in or something...
    – Well...
    Aug 8, 2022 at 16:04
  • Also, for the CV, if the paper is more well-known by the other title, doesn't it seem like I'm kind of leaving something off my CV? Someone might know the original title and not realize I wrote that paper (snappier titles do tend to be more remembered)...
    – Well...
    Aug 8, 2022 at 16:06
  • @Well... I think it will be clear they are the same paper if you list them as such. I think you are likely overestimating the value of the title or likelihood that people actually remember it by title, even if you find the title particularly amusing or "snappy". If the most memorable thing about the paper is the title, well, that doesn't say much good about the paper.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 8, 2022 at 16:52
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    @Rob Wary, sure, but really authors should be skeptical and do their own review of all content they cite, whether in preprints or published papers. Some journals have very narrow restrictions on length and even on supplemental materials, and the authors may choose to keep things available in a preprint that exceed those limits.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 8, 2022 at 17:42

A preprint and a published document are two separate documents. It is not one document with two titles, but two documents. Even if the two documents are nearly identical, this is the case.

Even if the only difference is the title, they are different documents.

So, if you are pulling information from one of them, you should cite it. If both, then cite each as a separate document. The citation should be clear in that one is published and the other is a preprint.

You should cite each document with exactly the title that appears on that document. This applies to other information such as author names, their institutions, etc., if you are including such information. No "tidying" or anything. Right down to spelling or grammar errors, cite the document exactly as it appears in the place other people can find it. You want to avoid confusion. If you use anything other than the exact information as it exists you may create doubt as to the exact document you are citing.

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    This comment is very outside the norms of my field. Our literature search engine (Inspire) uses default bibtex entires that cites the published paper and the preprint together
    – Well...
    Aug 8, 2022 at 18:51
  • @Well... if your field has particular norms on how to cite things it would have been useful to mention it in your question, so that people answer it only based on the norms of your field. Give that, I have never seen, in my field, a citation that combines preprint and published document. Usually people cite only one of them, traditionally the one you actually read, used for your own work and decided to cite.
    – jDAQ
    Aug 9, 2022 at 17:53
  • @jDAW, I suppose I don't want to be too identifiable in the main question that gets the most views. Still, the search engine I'm referring to (Inspire) is designed around and links to the arxiv, which afaik is the most comprehensive and active preprint server. The arxiv is extraordinarily popular/famous and leads the way for open access and preprints as standard practice for scientists to disseminate results.
    – Well...
    Aug 10, 2022 at 8:32
  • @Well... I know what Arxiv is. If your question is particular to your field you should have mentioned that, you can give the general area and it would still be anonymous. Because it is not universal to treat the preprint and published version of a paper as the same document. As to say it is one "paper with two titles".
    – jDAQ
    Aug 21, 2022 at 20:50
  • @jDAQ, I'm not saying you don't know what the arXiv is. I'm saying it's widespread enough that it (along with its linked search engine, Inspire) sets the standard for how preprints are cited. The point I was making is that it's not all that particular to my field. It's not universal, but it's very widespread.
    – Well...
    Aug 22, 2022 at 23:45

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