I am using first-order stochastic dominance and I am wondering if I need to cite a source.

More generally, how should one cite well-known mathematical definitions -- Is it okay to cite a somewhat recent source (like a book that covers the topic) or should one go to the effort to track down where it was first introduced?


The objectives of the citation, imho are:

  1. To point to some material that will give more details on the subject
  2. To give credit to the original author

In recent works, you don't have a choice, because there won't be a detailed explanation in anywhere but the original article, which covers the second point as well.

For well established developments (old stuff), the original article might be unreadable, considering current standards. The figures improved considerably in the last 10 years.

Personally, whenever is easy, I do both, cite the original work AND a current accessible textbook on the subject. If the original work is too obscure, just cite the text. In these cases, point 1 is more important than point 2.

  • I believe, it is a relative matter. In all fields, there are axioms, which do not have to be cited. The axiom in the field "A" might be not really known in the field "B". I think, there is no problem to skip citing fundamental axioms as long as they are used in their pure definitions. – Younes Jul 29 '17 at 10:39
  • @John but then you get in the subjective problem of where you draw the line between what is or isn't well known enough to be cited. Personally, I use a very high bar and cite basic concepts of the field (a textbook reference usually covers most of it anyway - assuming you have the space in the article, ofc). If the reader knows it already, it doesn't do any harm, otherwise, it is helpful... – Fábio Dias Jul 29 '17 at 15:53

Provide one reference to a recently, quality publication -- a reference that can be plumbed back to the original idea if needed. The presentation of that first paper is rarely crucial for new work.

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