Q: Do I have to cite the computer software I mention in my paper?
A: The Publication Manual specifies that a reference is not necessary for “standard software.” What is “standard”? Examples are Microsoft Word, Java, and Adobe Photoshop. Even less ubiquitous software, like SPSS or SAS, does not need to be referenced.
Note: We don’t keep a comprehensive list of what programs are “standard.” You make the call.
In your text, if you mention a program, do include the version number of the software. For example, “We asked participants to type their responses in a Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010, Version 14.0.7128.5000) file.”
However, you should provide a reference for specialized software. For example, let's say you used an open source software package to display items to the participants in your study. You should cite it. The reference format follows our usual who-when-what-where format.
- Use an individual’s name in the reference if he or she has proprietary rights to the program. In all other cases, create a reference as you would for unauthored works.
- After the title, in brackets, provide a descriptor for the item. This helps the reader immensely.
- If the software is available online, provide the URL rather than the publisher name and location.
|Esolang, A. N. (2014). Obscure Reference Generator [Computer software]. Washington, DC: E & K Press.|
|Customized Synergy [Computer software]. (2014). Retrieved from http://customizedsynergy.com|
Example Text Citations
|“We used the Obscure Reference Generator (Version 2.1; Esolang, 2014) and Version 1.0 of Customized Synergy (2014) to complete our work."|
Q: Is the name of the program italicized?
A: No: not in the text and not in the reference.
Q: Is the name of the program capitalized?
A: Yes, the name of the software is a proper noun and should be capitalized, both in the text and in the reference list.
Q: What about programming languages?
A: You don’t need to include references for programming languages. But, feel free to discuss them in the text of your paper, if relevant.
Q: What about mobile apps?
A: Yes, you can cite those, too. If you need to cite an app, this blog post has everything you need to know.
Q: What about video games?
A: Yes, video games are software. Follow the templates above for the reference and in-text citation.
Q: What if I used an online application to have my participants complete a survey?
A: Like Survey Monkey? If you mention the use of a site, simply provide the URL in your text (e.g., “Participants were given a link to an online survey, which the authors created using Survey Monkey (http://www.surveymonkey.com).” However, if you’re citing a particular page from the cite (e.g., a help document or the “About” page), you should reference that page just as you would any other. See this eggcellent post for more details about citing websites.
Q: What if I wrote the software myself?
A: If the reader can retrieve it, you can include a reference, following the template above. If you’ve created and published/posted software, that certainly falls into the “specialized” area noted above.
But, if you’ve written software that is not retrievable, a reference is not possible. If, for example, you’ve included the full code as an appendix, you will want to mention that appendix in the text, but a reference is not needed. You might also find these post about how to write about yourself and whether and how to cite one’s own experiences helpful.
I've tried to cover everything, but please let me know what I missed. I look forward to questions and comments!
Whenever you write a paper, you draw from existing sources of information. It is important to acknowledge those sources when you write your own paper. But how exactly do you write an acknowledgement of a source you incorporated into your paper? What does a source citation look like?
The following guide can help you write citations in the American Psyschological Association (APA) style. (And yes, the APA style is used by many different disciplines, not just psychology).
Citations consist of two elements:
- A quick note in the text of your paper anytime you use an existing source of information. The "in-text citations" tab above shows you how to include a note in the text of your paper when you use a source.
- A complete list of the sources you used at the end of your paper. The tabs above will show you how to present a webpage, article, book, encyclopedia, or DVD in the list of references at the end of your paper. General guidelines on how you present a your list of references include:
- Reference list starts on a new page. Type the word "References" centered at the top of the page.
- Double-space all reference list entries
- The first line of each reference is set at the left margin and subsequent lines are indented ½ inch
- Arrange alphabetically, not by format (book, journal, etc)
Please see the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for further info. The library has one copy of the Manual in the Ready Reference section on the second floor of the library, and one held on 24 hour reserve.