After reading this question about slides making and asking myself two questions about poster making and TED talking, I realize that these activities are for showing what you found, make the audience be attracted. If they need further explanation, they should read your paper, which has successfully defensed and proved that your work is validated. One important thing when you attempt to attract people is concentrate on the important, which means unnecessary things need to be trimmed. I think the reference is one of those. So, should we put the references in slides/poster when we already have them in paper?

  • 1
    I am wondering whether there should be separate questions for posters and presentations. I think those are two pretty different beasts.
    – xLeitix
    Oct 7, 2014 at 11:20
  • @xLeitix I also think that these two should be asked in different questions.
    – enthu
    Oct 8, 2014 at 12:51
  • @EnthusiasticStudent: but I think they share the same priciple
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 15:59
  • 1
    Norms again vary from field to field. I'd usually give a short reference key for any concrete result that is not yours -- [Bloggs et. al 2013] -- and give it a subtle colour. Most importantly, this removes any doubt that you are presenting/claiming the results of others. If you don't mention the concrete results of others, don't have references. No need for a bib slide: the key should make it obvious enough when combined with the paper.
    – badroit
    Oct 8, 2014 at 19:49
  • @badroit: why does it need to have a subtle color?
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 21:28

9 Answers 9


My rule for presentations is:

Don't say anything that an interested member of the audience will not be able to remember.

This includes tables, but also bibliographic references to things that are not absolutely central to the presentation. There is a caveat: if the conference is recorded or the slides are available offline, you could write them in a non intrusive way (but not mention them during the talk).

Posters are different, as an interested reader may spend a longer time reading it. But then, the rule becomes:

Don't include anything that an interested reader will not be able to remember, or won't bother to write down.

This trims away "previous work" (except, perhaps, a single very good review) or citations for the exact value of a certain constant you used; but you should include things that are indeed central.

And of course, by all means, you should include the reference to your own paper, so it is easy to find.

  • So, for summary, you suggest that we should trim references if they are not important, am I right?
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 1:07

I always include key references (i.e. ones necessary to ground the work in the literature including my own refereed work) in my slides and on my posters. I absolutely consider the references to be important as they ensure appropriate credit for prior work and to demonstrate one's understanding of the current state of the field. I do this in one of two ways for slides:

  1. Include the bibliographic reference by author at the bottom of the slide. This is my preferred way for conference presentations where people familiar with the field will likely already know the article you refer to.

  2. Provide a bibliography at the end of the presentation. This approach can be useful if there are quite a few references, or especially if the presentation is likely to be used as a resource in its own right. This can be the case if you ever upload slides to e.g. your personal website, or if it's for a tutorial-style presentation.

  • 5
    A bibliography at the end of a presentation is next-to useless. Anyone who wants to read it will find it in the paper. Anyone who wants to find out what reference [10] means has to wait 'til the end of the talk. Oct 7, 2014 at 17:56
  • Everything is useless when it's not the right time :D
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 1:30
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    Authors can make their slides freely available online, whereas conference organisers or publishers may make papers difficult (or expensive) to access. In this case, access to a list of references in the slides can be more quickly and cheaply available to an interested party than the paper.
    – Phil
    Oct 8, 2014 at 15:42
  • I'd like this answer better if you could replace the phrase "for academic rigour" with something meaningful.
    – badroit
    Oct 8, 2014 at 19:43
  • @badroit Thanks, I've removed it and tried to clarify
    – Phil
    Oct 9, 2014 at 11:54

If you subscribe to the "slides should be teasers to motivate people to read the paper" view (I don't), then make sure you provide full bibliographic information for the paper at least. If the paper is not published yet when you give the presentation, take the time to edit your presentation once the paper is published, if you can still access the presentation - e.g., if it is on your website.

There is little more frustrating than looking through an old presentation about a paper that nowhere tells the reader which paper is being talked about, so you have to scare up the presentation's author and hope he tells you. (As likely or not, he may not even remember himself which paper he was talking about.)

And then you can certainly skip references in your presentation.

EDIT: And I would suggest the same for a poster: if you make the poster available even after the paper was published, e.g., as a download, add the info what paper it was about.

  • 1
    I've used a placeholder URL for that. A "not done yet" page that is later replaced with the paper itself.
    – Bob Brown
    Oct 7, 2014 at 11:23
  • @StephanKolassa: I am one of those who upvote that answer :D. You are saying about presentation, what about poster?
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 1:37
  • Good point. I edited the answer. I don't say anything about the case when the paper is not yet published - I'd follow the other answers here in that case and include the most important references. Oct 8, 2014 at 6:36

Just give the references in the shortest possible manner, e.g.:

(Smith et al. 2004)

There is no need to provide a full list of references anywhere. Such a minimal reference is sufficient for the following purposes:

  • It clearly shows that this particular result is not from your current work.
  • The year of publication helps to clarify the relative timing of prior work.
  • Smith et al. in the audience will appreciate your talk.
  • The few experts in the audience can guess which work you are referring to, especially if this is a very well-known paper in the field.
  • So does that mean that I can trim the references section as long as I use this formatting?
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 18:13
  • This is good advice - I'd just add that giving the Journal name (e.g. (Smith et al 2004, Science) can make it even easier to track down a reference. Jan 28, 2015 at 6:55

I've only done one of these. I followed the same rules I'd follow in a paper. If the poster mentioned the work of another, there was a citation in the poster text and a reference at the bottom of the poster. That resulted in ten references (out of about 100) on the poster. http://scis.nova.edu/~robebrow/dissertation/cellular_automata_poster_brown_robert_20131209.pdf

  • Do you think that the references should be indexed/numbered?
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 1:40
  • I used the APA format, so citations were name and year, references alphabetical.
    – Bob Brown
    Oct 8, 2014 at 12:31
  • @BobBrown Did you prepare the file with powerpoint? I really like the colors, sectioning and the "further information" part specially that bar-code (was it your idea or existed in the conference's template).
    – enthu
    Oct 8, 2014 at 12:38
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    Yes, PowerPoint. I can take credit only for the content. The QR code was not part of the template, but I had seen them used before. The color palette is part of the University's official branding, and the layout is due to Colin Purrington's excellent advice. This page has some poster links: scis.nova.edu/~robebrow/poster
    – Bob Brown
    Oct 9, 2014 at 9:33

There's different schools of thought on that, and I don't think there is any really dominant convention (at least in my field). By and large, for conference papers, I tend to only include citations when it seems particularly important to do so (for instance when citing something in verbatim), or when I want to stress that an opinion that I am presenting originates from a different author.

It is somewhat different for defense-style talks (thesis defense, job talks, etc.). I tend to use more (self-)citations in such presentations, as it seems more essential here to make immediately clear that I am not making my content up as I go along, i.e., that the material is actually peer-reviewed. Also, having references to good papers of yours directly on the slides is a subtle but powerful reminder that you were able to get your research published in good venues.

  • In the defense talk, you actually have your paper version readily, so you can base on it to support your arguments.
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 1:50

One important consideration is whether any of the people who wrote the references are in the audience. It can't hurt to mention them because academics like to have their egos tickled. Of course, this doesn't apply for posters.

  • Why does this not apply for posters?
    – Ooker
    Oct 8, 2014 at 1:49
  • @Ooker I suppose it could apply for posters as well, but I was thinking that announcing that you read someone's paper in front of an audience makes them look more impressive (and is probably more gratifying to them) than mentioning it on a poster.
    – Flounderer
    Oct 8, 2014 at 1:51

According to https://wilkes.libguides.com/c.php?g=191944&p=1266692

If you have a handout to accompany your poster, you may list your references on that. If not, you should list them in small type at the bottom of the poster.


I always try to put references to papers of people that are likely to be in the audience.

I noticed that it draws their attention and keeps them alert throughout the talk.

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