I'm currently writing my masters thesis and I've gotten some good answers that have helped me along in my process.

My question is do I cite mathstackexchange in my thesis or do I put a note of thanks?

One thing to note is that posts on the site can be edited at any time. It's not like citing a paper: You know its content will never change. –  becko Jun 11 '12 at 3:39

2 Answers 2

up vote 22 down vote accepted

There was a discussion on meta.mathoverflow about this, How do I cite Math Overflow?

I agree with what Mike Shulman suggested, which is putting a sentence in your acknowledgements:

If the answers came out of a large discussion, then I think acknowledging MO as a whole might make sense (though I might still mention explicitly the main contributors, if possible), but if the answer came from a specific person, I would acknowledge that person (and perhaps say that the answer was given on MO).

Also, as pointed out by Noah Snyder on that meta post, this paper does a reasonable job citing math overflow, and the main answerer, in footnote 7.

Could you please explain how I acknowledge if the user does not use the real name? –  triomphe Jul 8 at 13:53

I too have this issue coming up. One part of my thesis began on this site and another on MathOverflow.

My intention is to put a footnote link to the threads, give credit when I use someone else's proof which appeared on these sites and of course give thanks both to the communities and the users (by real name if possible, by user name otherwise) - both those who asked the question; gave helpful comments and so on.

"Acknowledgements: [..] I'd also like to thank Moron, Anon, and User1234." :) –  user2468 May 20 '12 at 15:38
Well, not exactly... but not that far away I suppose. –  Asaf Karagila May 20 '12 at 15:53
And extra special thanks to victor –  The Chaz 2.0 May 20 '12 at 16:17
@J.D. That is an incredibly awesome comment. –  Eugene May 21 '12 at 3:12
@Eugene what are the odds! I also go to UW. –  user2468 May 21 '12 at 3:52
@J.D. Reminds me of the references on this MW article. –  anon May 21 '12 at 4:56
Footnote link to the threads? Why not just cite it? –  Willie Wong May 21 '12 at 7:43
@Willie: for the same reason you would prefer arXiv or journal or homepage PDF. Plus my advisor will disapprove, I already had this chat with him... –  Asaf Karagila May 21 '12 at 7:46
"Plus my advisor will disapprove" Ah. that explains it. I would however encourage the OP to have "the talk" with his/her advisor and see whether citing an online resource is ok. –  Willie Wong May 21 '12 at 7:53
@Willie: I think that MO and MSE are discussion sites, much like you would not cite a coffee chat with colleagues or an email correspondence. I do think that since the site is open to all it is fine to address the discussion and add a link. I still don't see a justified cause for a citation in the bibliography (at least in the case of my thesis). –  Asaf Karagila May 21 '12 at 7:58
"I would not cite a coffee chat with colleagues or an e-mail correspondence". Really? I certainly would. I would usually cite them a "private communications". This is, of course, not a way to let readers check those citations, but as a way to give credit where credit is due. –  Willie Wong May 21 '12 at 8:08
Clarification: I would cite them as I would cite a paper. In the text it would read "blah blah [13]" and in the bibliography it would have "[13] Joe the plumber, private communication". Part of this, of course, has to do with personal aesthetics. And I think we can agree to disagree. As a couple of parting shots, however: see Emerton's and Kostya's answers and comments thereon where both opinions are expressed. –  Willie Wong May 21 '12 at 8:29
See Chartier's thesis here: caicedoteaching.wordpress.com/students for how a student of mine dealt with this. –  Andres Caicedo May 21 '12 at 22:06
@Andres: Perhaps this should be posted as a separate answer? –  Asaf Karagila May 21 '12 at 22:17
@Willie Wong: not all journals will even allow "private communication" as a reference in the references section - they may limit references to those which are formally published and disseminated. If the journal also forbids footnotes (some do) then the best option may be to just name-drop the person in the text of the paper. That is still a formal acknowledgement of their work, but many people don't call it a "reference" if it is not in the references section. –  Carl Mummert Sep 12 '13 at 13:36

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