I want to cite the following paper:

Cem Kaner & Walter P. Bond, “Software engineering metrics: What do they measure and how do we know?” 10th International Software Metrics Symposium (Metrics 2004), Chicago, IL, September 14-16, 2004.

Most of my citations of papers in proceedings contain page numbers. The PDF file does contain page numbers from 1 to 12. However, I cannot find any contribution from the author in the table of contents for the proceedings. Other citations cite the paper without page numbers.

What should my citation look like? And in case I encounter something like this in the future: what explains the apparent mismatch between the author's website and official proceedings?

  • 3
    I have changed the title to address the actual issue. The previous title, Finding page numbers for citation, made me expect quite a different question. Only after reading the question text, it became clear that the question is not actually asking about the page numbers as such, but the lack of reliable page numbers are only a symptom for the underlying problem at hand, that a paper does not appear to have been published in the venue that it claims to be from. Feb 23, 2016 at 21:39

2 Answers 2


I have double checked in IEEE Xplore. The paper does not appear in the table of contents, the authors do not appear in the author list. Additionnaly, I cannot trace it in ISI Web of Science (which mentioned other conference papers by C. Kaner in 2004).

There are three options (in general):

  1. A mistake in the proceedings for a regularly accepted paper,
  2. The paper is more a tutorial, a keynote, a late breaking paper that has not been through the standard review process,
  3. A paper that was not published in the conference, and which was put online carelessly in the conference paper shape.

As I am really unsure, and know that papers sometimes cite papers they have not read (and papers that do not exist), I would cite it only as an online document, or a preprint, with the url, without page number, and a potential note like "(often refered to as published in Metrics 2004)".

Most of all, I would suggest you not to cite it, unless it is really useful for your work. Or cite a paper really "published " by the authors instead (good luck with that).

EDIT: after a long search, I have found using the Wayback Machine that this paper could have been part of Metrics 2004 Late Breaking Papers:

The purpose of the late breaking papers session is to give authors the opportunity to present work from on-going projects, new ideas and papers not complete at the time of the original call for papers. Each paper has been peer reviewed by at least 2 independent experts.

The late breaking papers sessions allow authors to make a short presentation of their work in the main programme. Printed copies of the extended abstracts are circulated in delegate packs and, due to the timescale, the full papers will be published electronically on the conference web site.

Finally, I observe that with some online journal, it gets more difficult to have standard page numbers. Sometimes each paper gets a number. As much as I like citing papers correctly, may be page numbers are becoming useful when the work only exists in paper-like form: a DOI is an interesting alternative.

  • 3
    If it is as you describe, this was meant to be an informal session, showing preliminary results, not (yet) ready for publication. No wonder it wasn't included in the proceedings. So there should be a definitive version by the same authors elsewhere, or they just gave up because they found a fatal flaw (or just got bored, lost funding, ...). Take with a healthy dose of salt, and if citing it, mark it as an informal document.
    – vonbrand
    Feb 24, 2016 at 0:20
  • 1
    @vonbrand Indeed, as far as I could check, none of the late breaking papers are in the ToC. Feb 24, 2016 at 5:26

First off, the function of bibliographies is to make whoever reads your work can get hold of the referenced material, be it to check you didn't misrepresent anything, to drill down on some particular point, or something else. With this in mind, you owe it your readers (and yourself, later on building on the previous work) to make this as easy as possible. I.e., give as complete and detailed references as possible.

There are several possibilities. If this work was just presented, but not published in any proceedings, there just might be no "page numbers" at all. Some conferences just publish the papers as separate files e.g. on their webpage, again no page numbers. I've also seen (sloppily done) proceedings in which each paper had their pages numbered from 1.

I'd make an effort to get hold of a copy of the final version (as published) and check that one. How much effort really depends on how important it is to you. I have several BibTeX databases collecting what I've cited and used, and even documents I've checked but never used. From time to time I go over them and try to fill in missing details, check if the URLs I keep for my own use in there are still valid, and so on.

  • "I've also seen (sloppily done) proceedings in which each paper had their pages numbered from 1." - this may be a matter or preference. I would see this kind of "semantic page numbering" (somewhat meaningful page number in document, rather than an essentially arbitrary (with respect to the paper) page number in a collection of documents) as "intuitively done" or "straightforwardly done". With that said, I cannot remember I have ever used the page number from a reference when digging up a referenced document. Feb 23, 2016 at 21:42
  • @O.R.Mapper, I have had to request documents by interlibrary loan, and giving exact page numbers was critical to get (copies of) the pages needed.
    – vonbrand
    Feb 23, 2016 at 23:38

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