I'm writing my final dissertation and, among all the documentation I have read, I have consulted the private lecture notes of a course on the topic of my dissertation that is taught in another university (in another country) by a reputable researcher in the field of the dissertation.

A friend of mine was following that course last year and shared with me the lecture notes that are available online only for the students of that university (you have to login to access the resource). As I have used this resource I think it's my duty to reference it, however, since I shouldn’t have access to this resource in the first place, I don't know how to properly reference it.

What should I do?

  • Did you consider writing to the author asking for a copy of the lecture notes, or access to them (for personal use)? Nov 20, 2023 at 22:58

2 Answers 2


If you had access, you can cite it (and should, if you make use of it). It may not be fully public, but you can still cite.

Of course, if this was confidential/classified material, that's a different issue, but if it's just lecture notes, the login probably just makes sure that people cannot just steal it and create unlicensed copies thereof. I do not see a major issue to use it as an aide-memoire or an additional academic source.

Example: Isaac de Novopeso, Lecture on Applied Brontomechanics III, University of Heavenly Masses, 1852. You could also look up how to cite lectures.


You mention that these materials are lecture notes. Lecture notes are not typically original, novel research, and generally cover what is considered to be common knowledge in the field.

So, my question to you would be what is it exactly in the lecture notes that you used?

  • If you are using a citation in the lecture notes to a specific paper (e.g. "Smith (2005) found that x > 3"), consult and cite the paper, not the lecture notes that directed you to the paper.
  • If the lecture notes helped you get up-to-date in the standard practices of the field so you could complete the work (e.g. an especially helpful set of analogies that really helped you understand how and why transregenerative epthelioid regression works with para-hypertransitive tensors across Garfieldian space), no citation is needed, though you could put in an acknowledgement thanking the instructor for the helpful lecture notes.
  • 1
    Common knowledge "in a field" is very different from "common knowledge". Nov 20, 2023 at 0:00

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