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I'm writing my first paper, so I'm unsure about the guidelines I should follow. The subject is within the field of mechatronics and computer simulation.

If I use some basic physics equation in it (say Newton's second law), should I always add some reference that validates this formula? Or such basic equations don't need to be validated?

If the answer to the above is no, then what if I introduce a lesser known physical model (such as Coulomb's friction model)? Should I then add some reference explaining it in detail to the reader?

marked as duplicate by silvado, gerrit, jakebeal publications Oct 22 '15 at 18:50

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Justifications are for claims you make that need to be justified. Everyone reading your paper will know about Newton's second law. Everyone reading one of my papers (in quantum theory) will know Schrodinger's equation. I don't think people generally cite them, because everyone will need to know them to understand anything in the paper even a little.

On the other hand, I don't know what "Coulomb's friction model" is off the top of my head. If you introduce this, you should cite it. In general, if it's something that's well-established (but not necessarily well-known) I often see people referencing a textbook. This is quite common for things like mathematical theories. If it's less well-established or more particular, find a paper or review article.

My main recommendation, however, is to learn from your surroundings. If you're writing a paper, you must be citing a lot of previous work. What do they say, and what do they cite? That can tell you what the expected norms are in your field.

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The problem is how do you define "common knowledge". I usually add a general book on the subject, if the concept is crucial to understand what I'm trying to say in the current work.

One of the main ideas behind citations is to provide a path to the reader obtain further knowledge in the mentioned subject.

While you may think that newton's 2nd law is common knowledge, is that really true for all your potential readers? If you have space for it, which is a few lines on the references section, why not? That's particularly true when a commonly defined concept has different possible interpretations, by specifically mentioning a book, you are clearing that possible ambiguity (that the reader will find just by googling the subject...)

Of course, I usually do not cite someone when defining addition, at least not the regular one... so the problem is mainly there, just a little further down the road :)

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