There is a very nice open source toolbox for Matlab which I have used for proof of concept. However, the real implementations in my field are almost always done in C++. I really like to give credit to those behind aforementioned toolbox and I have two of ways of doing so.

One is to add a sentence in the paper similar to:

one can achieve this using toolbox Foo (Foosmith 2015)

I’m not really fond of this approach because not only does it occupy valuable space, but also somehow states the very obvious (somehow an insult to the intelligence of the readers).

My second approach is not to cite them in the paper but add them in the bibliography (can be done with \nocite{} in LaTeX). My question is, if I follow this path, would it count as a citation for the creator of this toolbox? If it matters, my paper is to be submitted to an IEEE conference.

  • You better do based on the instructions, asserted within the aforementioned package's homepage... The authors often appreciate either of the approaches...
    – user41207
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 9:17
  • 4
    @Matinking: What instructions? Also, I am pretty certain this is about citations as an academic currency, not about pleasing the package authors by mere appreciation.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 9:27
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    @Pouya: I am confused: If this is just about being nice, why are you focussing on whether the citation “counts”? You obviously do acknowledge; what possible difference do you think your alternatives would make?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 10:03
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    @Pouya: Okay, that’s exactly what I meant by currency.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 11:27
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    somehow an insult to the intelligence of the readers — Nonsense. At least some of your readers are beginning students, who will really appreciate the explicit pointer to resources that everyone around them assumes they already know about. Others are decades into the future, when current common knowledge about standard software packages will have faded from memory.
    – JeffE
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 14:39

4 Answers 4


In the main text, you could also mention the authors by explicitly stating what their tool helped you with, for example:

Our approach was projected/tested/verified using toolbox Foo (Foosmith 2015) and later ported to C++ for performance measurements.

Apart from thanking the authors, this could also be interesting for the reader.

As the other answers mentioned, a bibliography-only citation counts the same as a regular citation, but such a citation is quite unusual and generally not recommended.


You could cite them in the acknowledgements.

Thanks to Foo et al. (2042) for their toolbox which helped the authors to study migratory patterns in unicorns.

I don't think it would be an insult to the intelligence of anybody. Although papers are not a chronological description of everything you tried, if something helped you but did not make it into the final paper, it can go in the acknowledgements.

Adding an item to the bibliography without a corresponding citation is something I have not seen before (nor have I checked) and it would not surprise me if many journals would have policies against it. At least one family of journals I know has backreferences, i.e. links from bibliography entries to the places in the main text where the citation occurs, so in this case it would be immediately obvious.

  • If the OP is concerned about the short sentence shown in the question occupying (too much) valuable space, I am not convinced your longer sentence helps in this respect, let alone that there is an acknowledgments section to start with. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 11:47
  • Concerning the last paragraph, I think this (IMHO nonsensical) restriction to add items to the bibliography only if there is a corresponding citation in the text was discussed elsewhere on this site; I'll try to find the respective question again. In any case, how can you be sure you "have not seen [\nocited bibliography items] before", unless you have, for all papers you have ever read, checked one by one whether each bibliography item is mentioned somewhere in the text? Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 12:00
  • @O.R.Mapper: you may be thinking of this question, which is indeed pertinent. Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 12:23
  • @O.R.Mapper I have not checked it, which is a major reason why I haven't seen it (edited for clarification).
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 13:03
  • @gerrit: Fair enough ;) Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 13:04

Generally, all items in the Bibliography (references) section are considered cited. But the fact that you mentioned IEEE means that all items in the bibliography ought to be cited in the main matter and presented in the order of citation.


Well, you have no option but to cite all bibliographic items in the text. This is the standard in most journals/styles, and it is for a reason: How does the reader know to which part is the cited article relevant? Actually, \nocite{} should never be needed in an article. But if you push your \nocite{} through, the bibliographic item will get indexed by the databases and the authors will get the citation.

What shall you do? Well, whatever you wish, as long as the citation appears at the right place. It's common to see the parenthesized/bracketed citation just after the authors' names in text, it's common to see them put at the end of sentences etc., some people write also things like: The authors of (Foosmith 2015) showed that...

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