I am citing this publication in my thesis using the author-date citation format. The article is fully accessible, however the Journal apparently placed it into an issue that will appear next year. Therefore, the citation information (BibTex) says that the year of publication is 2017. I find it a bit strange to cite future work.

When citing research articles to which year should the citation refer to? The year it appears in the Journal or the year it appeared (online)?

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    Incidentally, this is more common than you might think. As of 12 November, Scopus reports 20,881 items with notional publication year of 2017, or about 1% of the items recorded so far in 2016. Nov 12, 2016 at 10:17
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    You cite it as (in press)
    – HEITZ
    Nov 12, 2016 at 19:39
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    @HEITZ No, that's not the appropriate citation. "In press" is appropriate if the manuscript is accepted but there are no bibliographic details yet, which is not the case here. If the OP feels really uncomfortable they can add [pre-release] or [online preview] or something, if there's a chance that the content will change slightly upon publication, but really, there's no need for it. Just cite it as 2017 and move on.
    – E.P.
    Nov 12, 2016 at 20:10
  • In press you cite an article (usually your own) which you know it has been accepted, but not published online or printed yet. The in press lag is lower now with the online versions available.
    – BioGeo
    Nov 13, 2016 at 13:55
  • I'm in a similar situation. My paper was released online in 2019 as "in press" with a DOI and complete bibliographic information. It was recently finalized (now 2020) and has a publication date next week. Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and other engines list the date as 2019, but the official date on the manuscript is 2020--as if the DOI info changed. Citing something as "in press" makes sense to me, so it's odd to me that something in press would have a DOI. I wish journals would be more consistent here!
    – jvriesem
    Jun 25, 2020 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


Most journals take as formal publication date the date it appears on their printed version. The online version is considered a pre-publication.

Thus, despite how weird it may look, it is ok to cite an article from the future (as long as it is accepted and in press or the online preview). Journals with only online presence would not have this issue or the time span might be smaller.

What is probably important is to provide the DOI of the article (if available) as this will make it easier for people to find its online version before and after it has been published on paper.

Edit: Just to add that the citation and its details is decided/provided by the journal and not by you.


I agree with @George. There's no problem at all with citing a publication date in the future. The more difficult case in when an article is available online now, but there's no publication date yet provided. Then I believe you should cite the online version, with the date that it appeared online, but change the citation if you can at a later time. For example, if your paper is finally being prepared for publication, the production staff might ask you to update citations of this kind with actual publication dates. If they don't, you should do so anyway.

There are some odd cases. Some books published and available for purchase late in the year may have a copyright date for the following year. A journal in my field once had editorial delays and ended up not publishing an issue dated one year until several months into the next year. So in March, you could cite a paper as appearing the preceding year--it was known which articles had been accepted--but you couldn't yet provide page numbers, because the journal issue had not in fact been published and page numbers weren't publicly available.

In all of these cases, you should use as much of the official publication information as possible, I believe, and follow George's other advice.

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    In decent journals the technical editorial staff will alert you to incomplete references before the manuscript becomes final; it is often to make their job of cross-referencing the citations with other databases easier. So in any case, everyone will be grateful if author finalizes the citation lists before the final version.
    – xmp125a
    Feb 22, 2017 at 9:17

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