Very often, in an answer on CSE, it is appropriate to make a reference to a published article. How is that best done? Specifically (the topics are interrelated):

  1. Should references be flowed in the text, grouped in the end, or..?
  2. Especially in inline citations where smaller is better, shall we
    • Cite all authors or just the first one?
    • Abbreviate author(s) names? To what degree?
    • Omit journal reference, year?
    • Give a single link, and which? (see below)
  3. What web link(s)?
    • Prefer official paywalled version, or free one?
    • Always warn against paywalled material?
    • Refrain from linking to free material of questionable legality from a copyright standpoint?
    • Chose between abridged and full version, or link to both?
    • When there's a choice, link to an article's PDF or/and to a referring web page?
    • Link to fair postscript or/and poor PDF? (fortunately this dilemma is becoming a rarity, and in this example there now is a choice).
  4. Is it useful to systematically mention
    • Year? Always in 4-digit format when the conference did not (e.g. Crypto '98) or if the year does not quite coincide with a conference's name?
    • Full journal/book name?
    • Volume/Number, e.g. Volume 5 Number 1, LNCS 1807?
    • Publisher?
    • Editor(s), like the last two names in: L. Batina, S. Seys, B. Preneel and I. Verbauwhede, "Public-Key Primitives", chapter in Cryptology & Information Security Series (CIS, IOS Press), volume on Wireless Sensors Networks (WSN) Security, IOS PRESS, 2008, J. Lopez , and J. Zhou (eds.), 2008.
  5. What typographic style?
    • Italic for the title? Or..?
    • Punctuation?
    • Keep uppercase? e.g. EUROCRYPT '99?
    • Abbreviations? In particular for the publication, publisher..
    • Use of TeX to render a formula in a title?

[CFPR96] Don Coppersmith, Matthew Franklin, Jacques Patarin, Michael Reiter: Low-Exponent RSA with Related Messages, in proceedings of EuroCrypt 1996.

[CNJP00] Jean-Sébastien Coron, Marc Joye, David Naccache, Pascal Paillier: New Attacks on PKCS#1 v1.5 Encryption, in proceedings of EuroCrypt 2000.

[BCNTV10] Aurélie Bauer, Jean-Sébastien Coron, David Naccache, Mehdi Tibouchi, Damien Vergnaud: On the Broadcast and Validity-Checking Security of PKCS#1 v1.5 Encryption (paywalled), in proceedings of ACNS 2010 (full article).


2 Answers 2


I think you have a lot of leeway to use whatever style you deem appropriate.

I would suggest some guidelines:

Provide enough information that others can find the reference. Try to provide the title and enough information to find the paper (maybe the conference name, the authors names or the name of the first author). This should be enough that others can track down the reference.

Linking to the paper itself is nice. If you can link to a PDF of the paper that is freely available (not paywalled), or to a "paper page" that lists the paper title and abstract and links to the PDF, that is a nice benefit. Usually PDF is better than Postscript, as many readers these days don't have a Postscript viewer pre-installed on their machine, but most will have a PDF reader.

Don't depend on links to remain valid. Linking to the paper is nice, but don't rely upon the link to remain valid. Sometimes links go bad. Make sure that you've included enough of a citation to the paper (e.g., paper title, conference, author names) that others can find the paper even if the link stops working.

Beyond that, I don't know that it matters too much.


In addition to what D.W. wrote in the other answer, I think linking to a referring page from which you can download the paper is preferable to directly linking to a PDF, for the following reasons:

  • It often allows you to read the abstract or at least a full title, authors, etc. without needing to switch to a PDF reader or download anything.
  • Links to web pages can often be found in archives even after link rot, better than PDFs for which archiving may be disallowed.
  • It may offer the reader a choice of formats, previous versions, or supplementary materials.

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