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I am writing a scientific article. In the "materials and methods" section I must specify the hardware I used, namely an HP Pavilion dv6 Notebook PC (I also specified the details of its features).

Now my doubt:

Should I use bibliographic citations (such as when mentioning a software, book, or scientific article) when I mention the hardware?

What is standard (if any) for such cases?

Thanks in advance for any help and/or suggestion.

P.S. I use APA standards for bibliographic references, although the question is independent of that subject.

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There is a line to be drawn regarding which things that you used get to be cited.

What deserves to be cited/mentioned?

  • The experimental hardware? A mention definitely, but a bibliography entry--probably not.
  • The PC you conducted measurements on? If the PC specs are relevant, yes. Again, why would you need to add a bibliography entry for that? If it is specifically mentioned that hardware need to be specified, then supply basic information like: Desktop PC with Intel Core i7 Processor (4x 2.0 GHz) and 4 GB DDR4 RAM.
  • The digital camera you took pictures with? Nobody mentions that. Edit: Apparently, sometimes people do, as salehgeek pointed out in his comment. As for the other points, I was talking about my field (engineering). I have never seen anyone mention the camera they photographed their samples with, but some may do that. Personally, I find it superfluous.
  • The software you used for processing the results? If it does something special (e.g. a simulation tool) yes, but nobody cites Word, Excel or LaTeX in their papers.

In my field (engineering) the machines get mentioned in the experimental part (manufacturer, model). Sometimes exact settings on the machine are provided. Instruction manuals, manufacturer documents/websites are almost never in the bibliography.

The best way for you to know what is accepted is to read related articles and see what the majority does. If it fits with your journal's guidelines, do that.

  • @ff524 Can you please clarify the rollback? Digital camera model are citied in scientific articles. I gave an example from the Scientific Reports journal, published by Nature. – salehgeek Jun 6 '17 at 15:28
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    Electrochemical measurements were made using a potentiostat (CHI 1207A, CH Instruments, Austin, TX) at room temperature (22 +- 1C). A digital camera (12.1 megapixels, PowerShot SD960 IS), which was used to obtain pictures, was purchased from Canon. Dungchai, Wijitar, Orawon Chailapakul, and Charles S. Henry. "A low-cost, simple, and rapid fabrication method for paper-based microfluidics using wax screen-printing." Analyst 136.1 (2011): 77-82. – salehgeek Jun 6 '17 at 15:36
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    @salehgeek I flagged for the rollback, because I felt my opinion was changed in the post and that you should have commented instead. I will edit my answer, though, to reflect on your comment. – Ian Jun 6 '17 at 16:31
  • If the hardware used was funded by a grant (e.g. supercomputer) it ought to be mentioned. This would probably fall into your "relevant specs" category too. – haff Jun 6 '17 at 17:16
  • This is an article related to Material Science (use of digital cameras for measurement of stress): The Fuji S2 Pro Digital Camera connected to a stereo microscope was used ... with 4256 × 2848-pixel maximum resolution Ju, Shen-Haw, S. H. Liu, and K. W. Liu. "Measurement of stress intensity factors by digital camera." International journal of solids and structures 43.5 (2006): 1009-1022. – salehgeek Jun 6 '17 at 18:51
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You don't need to cite the computer manufacturer when mentioning that you use a certain kind of computer. In your case you don't need to cite HP in any way just because you're using an HP laptop. Honestly it's probably irrelevant but it's easy in this situation to be specific, so go ahead and be specific for the sake of reproducibility.

If you are taking advantage of a particular feature of some hardware that is unusual or so obscure that it is unlikely to be common knowledge within your field then you would probably want to cite a user manual or similar reference so another researcher could get the details if they were interested.

In empirical papers I've written in the past I've used descriptions like "Dell Opteron server with four Intel E2345 processors and 128GB of RAM" and nobody has suggested I need to be more or less specific.

  • Does the same argument apply to other hardware devices such as a microscope system or a digital microscope camera (which were also used in the research)? – I. Pérez May 29 '17 at 3:14
  • Again, I think it depends on your audience and their knowledge. My audience knows what I mean and doesn't need or want to look anything up when I say I have a "Dell Opteron Server with four processors". Is the same true of your audience and microscope systems? – David May 29 '17 at 3:19
  • It is true in general. However, I wondered if it was a standard way of writing in scientific papers. – I. Pérez May 29 '17 at 4:29

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