The example is when you might be reading a certain paper, and the authors refer to another paper. You can't get that other paper as it's unpublished, or it's in a language that you can't read, or maybe something else.

My guess is:

Featherstone et al 1900 (in Thomas and Cullen 2002).

And how is it to be handled in the bibliography?

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    I think the answer would depend on why you want to cite Featherstone. Obviously it isn't because of the important things you learned from reading it! Commented Jun 13, 2012 at 19:59
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    Just to make this very specific situation clear (which I didn't want to do, as it works better for all if it's just a little general): I cannot obtain the original paper as our libraries cannot get it (perhaps if I had unlimited time and so on I could find it?). The paper I do have sufficiently details the data from the secondary source, and those data are all I need. Just data, in a table, very simple. There's a lot of hand-wringing going on here, and some insinuations about my character, but just have a little generosity of spirit for and some faith in your fellow humans. Commented Jun 14, 2012 at 2:19
  • Possible duplicate of academia.stackexchange.com/q/12391/64
    – JRN
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 23:36

4 Answers 4


In APA style, you can write, (e.g., see this APA tutorial)

Featherstone et al 1900 (as cited in Thomas and Cullen 2002)

Of course, in general you should try your best to read the original and cite the original directly.

Someone in the comments asked:

"In such case do I need to list original paper also in reference section or only the recent one I am referring to?"

The reference to the original article is the more important reference to include, but you should include both in your reference list.

  • 3
    Thanks. That also tells me that the term is 'secondary source'. Another nice tool I've just found is this one: lib.unimelb.edu.au/recite/index.html Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 5:12
  • I always interpret this to mean that Thomas and Cullen (2002) said something about Featherstone et al (1900) that is not obvious and often contentious or wrong.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 8:21
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    I associate it most with student lab reports. Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 4:53
  • In such case do I need to list original paper also in reference section or only the recent one I am referring to?
    – Rajesh
    Commented Nov 22, 2017 at 9:47

The following is with regards to Chicago Style as of 11/25/2018 14.260: Citations taken from secondary sources Chapter Contents / Special Types of References / Citations Taken from Secondary Sources To cite a source from a secondary source (“quoted in . . .”) is generally to be discouraged, since authors are expected to have examined the works they cite. If an original source is unavailable, however, both the original and the secondary source must be listed.


If you are using a quote from author A that author B is citing, you would go ahead and use the quote from author A and cite it like this:

Blah blah, blahblahblah, blah blah blah-blah blah (qtd. in Author B 65).


If you cannot get that paper, you should not cite it.

What is a citation? The word citation comes from Latin verb cio (past participle: citum) that means to call somebody, to invite somebody, or preferably to demand someone to give his own testimony.

So, in your case, if you would like to cite that paper, that means that you invite that paper to give its own testimony. But if it's not available, how could it do it?

Simply, it can't.

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    No, you have a moral obligation to cite it regardless (and the etymology is completely irrelevant). Deliberately not citing a relevant paper because you couldn't track down a copy is a potentially career-destroying ethical mistake. It's a matter of credit and historical information, not just ease of availability. (Of course, if you don't have access yourself you need to trust someone else as to what is in there, and you should indicate that, but it's not a reason to erase someone from history.) Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 14:41
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    This is plainly wrong: unfortunately, sometimes author A refers to private communication with B, so there is no other way fo you to cite B then by an indirect reference. Commented Jun 7, 2012 at 18:54
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    @AnonymousMathematician I think the obligation is to get the source (and have it translated if necessary) and then decide if you should cite it. Citing a source without having the source is unethical.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 8:05
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    Citing something has nothing to do with reading or not reading it. It means having it appear in your bibliography and get referred to in your text. You're right that there are issues in how you refer to it: you have a scholarly obligation to say correct things about it, and an ethical obligation not to be sloppy or misleading. Pretending to have read something you haven't is indeed ethically problematic, but that's a matter of how you cite it, not whether you cite it. Omitting the citation entirely is tantamount to pretending you aren't aware of the paper. Commented Jun 8, 2012 at 14:41
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    @AnonymousMathematician: "Citing something has nothing to do with reading or not reading it": see Simkin & Roychowdhury 2003... Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 19:56

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