I want to add some description of a technology (Node.js = server-side JavaScript) in my thesis. The description is about what exactly this technology is, how it works, what it can do etc.

I want to use Node.js Wikipedia page, a blog page, one of my supervisor's lectures for gathering information.

Should I cite these sources, given the fact that they say pretty much the same things and these things are just observations, not scientific contribution?

  • 3
    What do people normally do, in your field, when they include such descriptions? Familiarize yourself with the norms of your field by reading what others write and emulating it. Jun 6, 2014 at 11:13

3 Answers 3


If something can be deemed common knowledge in your field there should be no need to cite it.

MIT define common knowledge as;

Broadly speaking, common knowledge refers to information that the average, educated reader would accept as reliable without having to look it up.

There is further detail on that link about Common Knowledge and it's applications. They also say that there best advice is: 'When in doubt, cite your source.'

That said if you are taking something verbatim from a source you should cite it.

Just on your sources; in academia you tend to shy away from citing from wikipedia etc. You can see a discussion on that issue at this question

  • the thing is that Node.js is a relatively new technology (around 5 years) so not too many poeple would know how it works... at least not as many as the ones who know how C++ or Java work... Jun 6, 2014 at 10:49
  • @SorinAdrianCarbunaru Who is the audience? If you can assume they already know about Node.js there should be no need to cite. If they don't expect them to have any knowledge you should cite.
    – gman
    Jun 6, 2014 at 10:54
  • I'm writing my Master's thesis... so the main audience is made of the professors from the committee who will evaluate my thesis, and I suppose that at least some of them, don't know about Node.js... but, again, what I want to include in the description is only information like "it's a platform that you have to install on your computer, it is based on this, it works like this and it offers this"... it's more like story telling Jun 6, 2014 at 11:05
  • If you use information from another source and the people reading your thesis may need to go to that source if its not common knowledge to them then you should cite.
    – gman
    Jun 6, 2014 at 12:02

This is the same as citing any other software; you would follow the standard guidelines for such citations. APA guidelines follow, from this Purdue website:

Computer Software/Downloaded Software

Do not cite standard office software (e.g. Word, Excel) or programming languages. Provide references only for specialized software.

Ludwig, T. (2002). PsychInquiry [computer software]. New York: Worth.

Software that is downloaded from a Web site should provide the software’s version and year when available.

Hayes, B., Tesar, B., & Zuraw, K. (2003). OTSoft: Optimality Theory Software (Version 2.1) [Software]. Available from http://www.linguistics.ucla.edu/people/hayes/otsoft/

As usual, you should check with your journal to see whether they have any specific formatting requirements/require any other specific information for such citations.


Add a footnote

This is supplementary information that isn't required for your thesis, but for some readers might be useful for understanding the context.

This isn't realy a citation - most likely you aren't using Node.js documentation as a direct source for something that you are writing there, unless you're comparing details of some API descriptions. You probably are using a part of node.js technology, and the reference is to extra information about that part, for people who don't know a prerequisite. So it's something where using a footnote would be the most appropriate way.

  • well, one point of my thesis is the generation of web services which run on the Node.js platform... and I want to describe how the platform works, for people who don't know... and I don't know if such a description should have citations added Jun 6, 2014 at 13:24

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