What is the proper way of citing TeX.SE answers, if I have used them (only) to typeset a document?

Let's assume that I am using the site only for typesetting matters, not for content. That is, I will use various answers to make my document prettier, but I am not using the site to incorporate facts (say, facts about LaTeX) into my actual typeset text.

Related questions (this will help with keeping everything consistent and preventing misinformation):

It might help if you clarify your question, e.g. by giving an example. Are you asking about complying to licenses or what is best practice or appropriate? –  N.N. Feb 16 '13 at 13:29
@N.N. I am asking about whether and how to cite TeX.SE answers that helped me only in the typesetting of a document about an entirely different subject matter. –  Lover of Structure Feb 17 '13 at 5:04

4 Answers 4

There's an official way that is currently working only on couple sites. The BibTeX item looks like this:

@MISC {305556,
    TITLE = {How can I explain the meaning of LaTeX to my grandma?},
    AUTHOR = {
Stefan Kottwitz (http://tex.stackexchange.com/users/213/stefan-kottwitz)},
    HOWPUBLISHED = {{TeX} -- {LaTeX}},
    NOTE = {URL:http://tex.stackexchange.com/q/94889 (version: 2013-02-16)},
    EPRINT = {http://tex.stackexchange.com/q/94889},
    URL = {http://tex.stackexchange.com/q/94889}

With the result of the form:

Stefan Kottwitz (http://tex.stackexchange.com/users/213/stefan-kottwitz). How can I explain the meaning of LaTeX to my grandma? TeX - LaTeX, URL:http://tex.stackexchange.com/q/94889 (version: 2013-02-16)

If the real name of the person and the nickname differs, either use both if you know the real name or use just the nickname. Notice that you are not oblidged to cite SE when you use the results. Still, if you want to do so, you of course can.


You can add a sentence of thanks into the "Acknowledgements" in your article, like:

We thank members of \TeX\@ -- \LateX\@ StackExchange site, especially John Doe and Josh Soe, for useful suggestions concerning \LaTeX\@ and typography.

(More information on \@ usage is in this question and in comments to this answer to yet another TeX.SE question.)

A minor point: Shouldn't it technically be {TeX} - {LaTeX} instead of {TeX} -- {LaTeX}, even though the latter is better typographically? –  Lover of Structure Feb 17 '13 at 5:06
@LoverofStructure No, I think it should not. Typographical mistake in a name of a website doesn't need to propagate to the citation I think. In HTML page titles, commonly all dashes are typeset as hyphens, but the semantics is still "dashes" ;) –  yo' Feb 17 '13 at 8:25
Okay, I did try to get this right, which is why I was asking. Do you have a reference listing this as the official title? –  Lover of Structure Feb 18 '13 at 11:13
@LoverofStructure you mean TeX -- LaTeX? See the page title (the one in the browser top bar). –  yo' Feb 18 '13 at 11:48
Okay, but since the html source uses a hyphen, I'd go with TeX - LaTeX. Anyways, upon Andrew Stacey's suggestion I have created this question on TeX.SE main: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/98721 –  Lover of Structure Feb 18 '13 at 12:24
By the way, what is the function of \@ in your addendum? –  Lover of Structure Feb 18 '13 at 12:26
To preserve spacing. It serves the same purpose as \TeX\ -- or \TeX{} --, just another way how to do it. –  yo' Feb 18 '13 at 12:30

This is a tricky question. I am not sure whether you are in practice required to refer to the post that helped you if you just got the idea of how to fix a TeX related problem via this site.

If you are asking about attribution check the bottom right of every page and you will find a link to the license CC BY-SA 3.0 which is how material on Stack Exchange is licensed. It says

Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

However some users have relicensed the code in their answers by answering to a meta question or by a statement in their profile which means that code by those users are available under different conditions.

I am not a lawyer and not knowledgeable enough to say how to interpret licenses on what is really required when it comes to attribution but it seems overly strict if you have to include notices in your typeset material, e.g. in resulting PDF. However, it makes sense to include a comment in your source with a link to the post that helped you. This is what I usually do. Here is a LaTeX example

\usepackage[T1]{fontenc}% Load after fonts http://tex.stackexchange.com/a/49775/5701

and here is an example from my .emacs

(setq reftex-cite-format ; Use ReTeX with biblatex http://tex.stackexchange.com/a/31992/5701
      '((?t . "\\textcite[]{%l}")
    (?a . "\\autocite[]{%l}")
    (?c . "\\cite[]{%l}")
    (?s . "\\smartcite[]{%l}")
    (?f . "\\footcite[]{%l}")
    (?n . "\\nocite{%l}")
    (?b . "\\blockcquote[]{%l}{}")))))

There are more reasons for including comments that references posts on Stack Exchange (or to any other places) that explains a technique than to comply with licenses:

  • It helps you keep track of where you the idea for a particular technique.
  • It serves to document your source, e.g. others will have an easier time understanding your code.
Just a remark: Some users state the relicensing (only) in their user profiles. –  Speravir Feb 16 '13 at 22:28
@Speravir Thanks. Edited accordingly. –  N.N. Feb 20 '13 at 11:44

I don't think using the TeX - LaTeX name with or without hyphens or bumpy logos really helps, while it's useful have a title on the web page it seems to me the site is always referred to by its URI, often abbreviated (as in the question here) to tex.sx or tex.se, Thus I think just referring to the tex.stackexchange.com site without using any variant of the TeX-LaTeX name is more informative and closer to common practice.

Raise this at the higher places, I only reflected that post and modified for our site accordingly. –  yo' Feb 19 '13 at 8:34

I am most definitely not a lawyer, the following is pure opinion.

I don't think that there is a requirement on you to attribute things that you use to make your document look nicer since your document does not itself contain the contributed code. The licence requirements apply - I think - to repackaging of that code and not to use of that code.

That said, if the site has been useful to you then acknowledging the fact is a nice thing to do and a way of saying "Thank you" to the community, so it is something that I would encourage you to do. Since I do not think it is a requirement, I would say that you are free to choose the appropriate manner of acknowledgement. In which case, I would say that the primary goals of any such acknowledgement should be:

  1. To raise awareness of this site,
  2. To indicate the usefulness of this site.

Anything long would, I think, irritate the reader without adding to the above. So listing every question that helped might quickly get annoying. But if there is something particular that you think a reader might think "How did they do that?" then it is worth acknowledging a particular question. So in general it might be as in the Acknowledgement in tohecz's answer, but it might be: "The Jabberwocky diagrams were drawn with help from the \TeX\@ -- \LaTeX\@ StackExchange site".

What does \@ do here? –  Lover of Structure Feb 18 '13 at 11:02
@LoverofStructure Absolutely no idea: I just copied it from tohecz's answer. I'd almost say that that's worth a question here - or possibly on main: "How do I typeset the name of this site in (La)TeX?" –  Loop Space Feb 18 '13 at 11:37
Thanks for the suggestion! See here: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/98721 –  Lover of Structure Feb 18 '13 at 12:24
@LoverofStructure They do absolutely nothing. :) At least the second one avoids the problem with the space following \LaTeX. –  egreg Feb 19 '13 at 21:40

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