I want to cite this article in my thesis. Which date should I to use in my bibliography? At the beginning of the article, there are three dates

  1. Received 28 April 2021
  2. Accepted: 5 November 2021
  3. Published online: 17 January 2022

I would use the "accepted" date, because I guess it was proofread.

Header of an article with "Received: 28 April 2021 / Accepted: 5 November 2021 / Published online: 17 January 2022"

  • 6
    Most articles will tell you how to cite them, in this case if you go to the webpage for the paper, and click "cite this article" it will take you to the citation - link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11139-021-00536-2#citeas - which you may need to reformat to the preferred style of your university but should have the same list of authors, date, issue number, etc. Oct 23 at 17:49
  • 2
    Back when I was a grad student, it was easy. After you spent forever looking through issues of some journal and finding something interesting, you'd read it, then close the cover and look at the publication date.
    – Flydog57
    Oct 23 at 23:43
  • @Flydog57: Today it is a total mess. You have the preprint date, the early access date, all sort of confusing stuff. A few months ago I randomly noticed that a publisher changed the date of one of my papers, because it switched from "early access" to "in press". Of course, nobody notified me. So that paper changed date twice in its life: preprint, early access, now in press. I think this is confusing, but I guess things happen that way now. Oct 24 at 15:55
  • It's kind of funny to me that we have more information now, yet we're discarding it in the end anyway. There are three dates that describe a more detailed history, but instead of using a meta tag type of labeling system to clarify what the dates mean and disambiguate, more ambiguity is being introduced merely to satisfy university preference. It's not good from a data science perspective.
    – Mentalist
    Oct 24 at 17:30
  • The received/accepted dates are interesting from an author's perspective to see how quickly/effectively the journal performs, but they are not part of telling a potential reader where to look for the publication. Extreme case: Accepted publication gets delayed for a year for whatever reason. You wouldn't use the accept date to make someone look in vain for an unpublished publication (you'd cite it as unpublished or "to appear ..." or whatever).
    – kricheli
    Oct 25 at 3:54

5 Answers 5


By convention, the date in a citation refers to the date of publication. The "official" year of publication usually is the year in which the journal issue, which contains the publication, was published. This makes sense because this is how you searched for a publication in the past. You first needed to know the journal and the specific journal issue and find that in the library.

  • 5
    ... which in this case can be found in the very first line: 2002. This can be different from all three options the OP gave: a paper might have been received in 2020, accepted after revisions in 2022, published online in 2023 (typically as "early online", and then you would typically cite it as "in press" or "early online" or similar), and finally included in a journal issue that appeared only in 2024, after which point you would use the 2024 date. Oct 23 at 9:39
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    @StephanKolassa You mean the very first line of the PDF, and 2022 not 2002
    – toby544
    Oct 23 at 12:35

The other answers are correct, but let me offer a different angle.

Stop thinking, and start using the Bibtex entries from Zbmath; in this case, click on the Bibtex button before the references on https://zbmath.org/7576459 . Life is too short to worry about references and insert them by hand.

EDIT: Note that this piece of advice is specific for mathematics. Bibtex entries offered by most generalist sites, such as the publishers' sites and Google Scholar, often have poor quality and get capitals and diacritics wrong. However, for mathematics, there are two literature databases that produce very high-quality Bibtex entries that can be used without double-checking them: Zbmath (100% free, offered by the European Mathematical Society), and Mathscinet (good if your university is a subscriber but severely limited in its free version, by the American Mathematical Society).

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    Auto-generated BibTeX entries are a great time-saver, but one should always check them, they are often enough wrong. Oct 23 at 13:00
  • 2
    @StephanKolassa This is true for the ones by the publishers and Google Scholar, but in my experience Zbmath and Mathscinet have much higher quality. Oct 23 at 19:38

The current norm is to use the publication date ("print date") which, in your case, would be 2022 (more precisely, Sept 2022, the date the issue came out).

This is how the journal itself formats the citation (see bottom of this page):

Borsos, B., Kovács, A. & Tihanyi, N. Tight upper and lower bounds for the reciprocal sum of Proth primes. Ramanujan J 59, 181–198 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11139-021-00536-2

However, it seems that the norms may be evolving in future and might start to include online publication date as well (source).


The date you're interested is in the very first line of the paper you link to

The Ramanujan Journal (2022) 59:181–198

2022 is the only date you need.


The publication date - as others have already said - denotes the date in which the article has been released/published. A quick search in Google Scholar will always confirm the correct date (year), and that is the date to follow (for purposes of consistency). The year will be updated once the journal issue is published, assuming it is not the same year, so it is a good idea to always follow the journal's model (cross-reference this information with the journal in question), and again, no matter what, remain consistent.

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