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RE: st: how to cite Stata helpfile

From   Nick Cox <>
To   "''" <>
Subject   RE: st: how to cite Stata helpfile
Date   Tue, 8 Nov 2011 17:34:49 +0000

Indeed. Standards, or perhaps rather styles, vary enormously. There are fields in which reproducible research is the norm and work is not publishable without a script that would re-generate the whole of the results from the whole of the original data as received _and elsewhere available_. There are fields that say nothing about the computing and in which even some minimal statement such as "the data were carefully edited" lifts the competent researcher above many others.

But this is difficult. When I am a consumer of literature, I also don't want to see papers bloated with lots of minor details.  What next, that you acknowledge your mailer? In the end, as usual, people have to use their judgement. I did say "important" and there is always a grey area around that. 


-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Richard Williams
Sent: 08 November 2011 16:58
Subject: RE: st: how to cite Stata helpfile

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.
>*   For searches and help try:

Richard Williams, Notre Dame Dept of Sociology
OFFICE: (574)631-6668, (574)631-6463
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