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RE: st: how to cite Stata helpfile

From   Richard Williams <>
Subject   RE: st: how to cite Stata helpfile
Date   Tue, 08 Nov 2011 11:57:41 -0500

At 11:21 AM 11/8/2011, Nick Cox wrote:
I disagree to some extent with Richard's recommendations, particularly on what he calls "utilities".

Fair enough. Perhaps it would be a good practice to include a footnote or acknowledgement like "Several user-written Stata routines were employed in this analysis. These include XXX (Cox, 2009); XXX (Baum, 2007)." Authors can help their cause by explicitly saying in the help file that they expect citations and show how the work should be cited. If the editor wants to kill the citations, well, at least you've tried.

Incidentally, articles often don't even say what major package was used (e.g. Stata, SAS, SPSS) let alone the specific programs. I usually harass authors to provide such details and to make their data and code available if at all possible. I also tell people that if you have written some sort of Stata program, you'll probably have a lot more impact and get a lot more citations if you provide the software so people can do it themselves rather than have to figure out how to program from scratch.

If anybody's published work, meaning work made public, was important to you in work with Stata that you in turn want to publish, then you have a moral obligation to cite it.

Second-guessing how useful a citation might be to the original author is scarcely the point. Citations that don't help a career much don't do much harm either.

Also, it so happens that many papers in many fields include little or nothing on the data management that lay behind the analysis, and so there is often not a section where citations would be appropriate, but that is an empirical question, not a matter of principle.

Also, whether reviewers or editors of certain journals will accept citations to programs alone can be a tricky question, but authors are surely honour-bound to try to cite others' work responsibly and fully.

There is a bizarre confusion in some quarters between "making freely available", which many people do in the Stata community, and "relinquishing intellectual property rights", a different matter altogether.


Richard Williams

At 03:05 PM 11/7/2011, Jet wrote:
>HI, how to cite a Stata helpfile (e.g., betafit) if needed? Wonder if
>there is any suggested way to do so. Thanks!

The Stata 12 User's Guide says

The suggested citation for this software is
StataCorp. 2011. Stata: Release 12. Statistical Software. College
Station, TX: StataCorp LP.

For a built in command, I suppose you could also cite the appropriate
reference manual. I would especially do that if I was directly
quoting from the manual. The manual usually has the same text as the
help file, and more.

For a user-written command --

I would suggest seeing if the help file includes a suggested
citation. If you  are using one of my programs, my strong preference
is that you cite one of my published articles, assuming I have
written a relevant article for the command.

Barring that, or in addition to, you might try citing the repec
pages. For example, the user-written ivreg2 help file makes this suggestion:

ivreg2 is not an official Stata command. It is a free contribution to
the research community, like a paper. Please cite it as such:

     Baum, C.F., Schaffer, M.E., Stillman, S. 2010.  ivreg2: Stata
module for extended instrumental variables/2SLS, GMM and AC/HAC, LIML
and k-class regression.

As to when to cite - my own feeling is that if you are using a
user-written estimation command, you should cite the authors of that
command. Utilities, probably not, unless they had a really major
impact on the analysis. If you do feel a deep debt of gratitude for
some utilities, perhaps those authors could be mentioned in the
acknowledgments instead. Citations of published work are what is
going to help most scholars the most, but other types of appreciation
are nice as well.

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