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I once attended a scientific conference with a few hundred participants. There, the CEO of Frobcorp, Inc.1 gave a keynote speech on what their product is about and how they accomplish certain things.

There is one piece of information that was mentioned during the keynote which is quite important to me. I would like to include it in a paper that I'm writing. (Or in my thesis at a later stage.)

Now, this being a keynote, there were just a few slides with stock photos on them, so I don't have a physical reference to what was said there. I do however know that hundreds of others have heard the same piece of information (unless they were just checking e-mails during the talk).

How should I include this?

Does a sentence like the following make sense, or could it be dismissed for lacking a reference?

As explained by the CEO of Frobcorp, Inc., during a keynote speech at the ... conference, they do ... to improve their Frobber™ product.

I of course understand that this may depend on whatever field of science this is going to be published in, what the conference or journal is, and what my supervisor thinks.

1 Yes, this is completely made-up.

  • You might as well cite your high school Math class for every derivation. – Ébe Isaac Jan 19 '16 at 18:19
  • @ÉbeIsaac No, because this follows basic principles of math that can always be proven. (And anyway, it wouldn't hurt to cite that if I used math in a field that otherwise does not use it much.) Saying that someone does things like this and that would be a claim without proof, which is why I'd need to cite it. – slhck Jan 19 '16 at 19:09
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    You could contact the company (if not the CEO) to confirm the statement and whether there are any papers or a website that you can cite. – mkennedy Jan 19 '16 at 21:35
  • @mkennedy: State your comment as an answer to so I can up-vote it. – Ébe Isaac Jan 20 '16 at 5:58
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I'd use the form for symposia, adjusted slightly to reflect that it's a keynote speech with only one speaker.

For the APA style, see the second block in this blog entry:

Symposia

A symposium is a bit like a live-action edited book: Several authors come together under the leadership of the chair to pool their knowledge about a topic.

Krinsky-McHale, S. J., Zigman, W. B., & Silverman, W. (2012, August).
       Are neuropsychiatric symptoms markers of prodromal Alzheimer’s disease in adults with
       Down syndrome? In W. B. Zigman (Chair), Predictors of mild cognitive impairment, dementia,
       and mortality in adults with Down syndrome.
Symposium conducted at the meeting of the
       American Psychological Association, Orlando, FL.

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For a potential reader there must be some way to go back and see an authentic source you are referring to. I find no meaning in referring to something that only exists in a few minds, possibly with different interpretations for the same thing. Edit* As mentioned by @mkennedy in the comments below, it is possible to cite interview type communication as personal communication.

One way is to create a source, with due permission from the mentioned CEO and then cite it. If possible and everyone attended the meeting agrees; the minutes of the conference may be edited with an addendum stating why it is done so.

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    I've seen plenty of "personal communication" type of citations so there does not necessarily have to be a source that accessible to anyone but the author. – mkennedy Jan 19 '16 at 21:34
  • @mkennedy Interesting. Could you share an article referring to one of those? – Sathyam Jan 19 '16 at 23:14
  • Here's no entry in the reference list, just an inline citation. Here's one reference – mkennedy Jan 19 '16 at 23:20
  • This is an interview or a personal communication. Quotes are different from interviews – Sathyam Jan 19 '16 at 23:27
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    Yes, but you implied in your answer that there has to be an "authentic source" that's accessible to the reader. Personal communications are not accessible to the reader. That's what I'm trying to get at. – mkennedy Jan 19 '16 at 23:57
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Personally, I would contact the company--possibly the CEO directly or more likely press/media relations--and ask about the statement. Is there a published paper about it? Has it been published in a company magazine or newsletter or on a website?

If you can get a written confirmation, even by email, you can then cite it as a personal communication.

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