Before publication, if a new edition of a source is released, should I try and find the new edition or keep a citation based on the old?

  • Compare to citing web sources, e.g. Wikipedia -- you should always cite a permalinked version of the page. Nov 2, 2017 at 3:53

4 Answers 4


Cite the edition of the book you used, as new editions may contain the same text, paragraph or example but on a different page.

  • 2
    More importantly, in a different section or under a different number. Pages should only be cited as a last resort. Nov 1, 2017 at 5:36
  • 4
    @darijgrinberg well, Harvard referencing requires the pages used... See citethisforme.com/harvard-referencing : item 6 is pages used...
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 1, 2017 at 5:48
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    "Translated" - then you should be using the original anyway... How often are errors due to mistakes or the translators "view" ?
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 1, 2017 at 6:21
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    Not everyone has the luxury of reading the language of the original. Nov 1, 2017 at 6:45
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    @darijgrinberg: As Solar Mike says in his answer, the rule in academia is to cite that edition of the text that you used. If you use a translation, that's fine, but cite the translated edition, and use the page numbers from that if the referencing style requires page numbers. It's not acceptable to pretend that you used the untranslated text if you didn't. If you're using a translation that has not been published (e.g. a Google translation), you can't cite it in an academic context.
    – Schmuddi
    Nov 1, 2017 at 7:52

You should cite the exact source of any information you use. If you are pulling your information from a 200-year-old Encyclopedia Britannica, you cite the 200-year-old Encyclopedia Britannica.

However, it is good practice to write based on the current state of knowledge. If the 2010 Encyclopedia Britannica has more up-to-date information, you should use that more recent information, which will drive you to cite the more recent edition. That doesn't mean you need to wait for a new Britannica to publish, but if a new one does appear before you go to print, you may want to spot check it for relevant updates.

(In most fields you probably shouldn't be basing any writing off an encyclopedia, but it's an easy example to think about).

  • 2
    I think this is the real answer. The question says find a new edition, so I assume they realize it could have changed and the citation might need to be adjusted. OP doesn't want to blindly cite the new edition just because newer. I read the question as "Is there value in citing the most up to date version".
    – JPhi1618
    Nov 1, 2017 at 14:20

I mainly agree with the first answer by SolarMike, but be aware of the content/information that you cite in this old edition and how old your edition is. The state of the art might change due to new developments in your field and this will be included in the edition. If you, for example, then criticise the book for not including X or Y, but it is done in the most recent edition, this would have been an easy mistake to avoid.

Regarding the year of the edition, sometimes, valuable editings are made for the newest edition of a book. It might be interesting for you to check these - just that you are aware of. For instance, the author changes this specific argument that you use due to criticisms of the first edition (or puts in an extended chapter or so).

  • So, should you wait for the new edition to appear before you publish your paper "just in case the argument changes" and you re-write your paper or should you publish with what is current and effectively accepted at the moment?
    – Solar Mike
    Oct 31, 2017 at 14:21
  • I haven't said wait for the new edition (how should most of us know anyway, whether a new edition of book X will be published soon...), but if you know(!) that the cited version is out now in a new (revised) edition, then you can just check it (and that you know "what is current and effectively accepted at the moment")
    – Stefan_W
    Oct 31, 2017 at 17:32
  • As to how to know when a new version of a book will be available - most publishers will be able, and happy, to tell you - in fact, faculty often receive pre-published copies for review...
    – Solar Mike
    Oct 31, 2017 at 17:42
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    "I mainly agree with the former comment" What former comment? If you wish to refer to another comment or answer, please link it so that people know what you're talking about. (You can get a link to an answer by clicking the "share" link below it, and you can get a link to a comment by clicking on its timestamp.) If you are referring to a comment, you should quote it as well as linking to it, since comments are often deleted. Oct 31, 2017 at 19:11

There are of course cases where you might want to deliberately cite an older edition. For example, if it contained information that has been removed from newer editions; or if you want cite erroneous information "Until recently it was widely believed that.... This belief appears to derive from ....". Or you might want to cite Fowler 1st ed as evidence of what was considered acceptable English usage at the time it was published. Or you might believe that earlier editors got something right and later editors got it wrong.

I can also imagine cases where you want to cite an earlier edition simply because it is much more widely available, or because you cannot get hold of a later edition despite best efforts.


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