While we are attempting to reposition this site to a professional level, should we encourage the use of a common format for quoting references apart from or in addition to those that are inlined? In particular when referencing a published paper from a journal?

Here's sample output from a cgi script I wrote a while back

Biesiekierski JR, Peters SL, Newnham ED, Rosella O, Muir JG, Gibson PR. No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates. Gastroenterology 2013 Aug;145(2):320-8.e1-3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2013.04.051. PubMed PMID: 23648697.

  • Please elaborate a bit, contrasting your idea to those already on meta.There are some suggestions in quality of references, standard comments and permissibility of non-medical references. Perhaps an example of what you have in mind? Mar 17, 2018 at 11:48
  • The question is on how to quote a reference. Mar 17, 2018 at 11:57
  • I follow. But is it using vs requiring. Is it different from this, this and this. That is, do you want a standard like APA-cite style, Chicago, Harvard, end-/footnotes and the like? I do not doubt a minute that there is one: What is the goal for this? Mar 17, 2018 at 12:11
  • Add uniformity to answers. See edit Mar 17, 2018 at 18:12
  • 2
    I don't think the format matters that much. More important is that I'd like references in <sup> </sup> and directly under the extract or in a footnote. No need for 2k word answers with 15 references at the end where I have to figure out which reference is supposed to support what claim.
    – Narusan
    Mar 17, 2018 at 18:27
  • @Narusan-in-coma Partial objection: Footnotes are for printed material. They are tedious and cumbersome online and especially so on SE. Unless SE makes their usage much more convenient for us, this would slow us down completely unneeded just because we want to simulate proper citation. Skeuomorphism for what? – Apart from that, looks like your view is worth a more elaborate answer? Mar 18, 2018 at 17:20
  • Currently I wonder if you could share that script? We need all the automation we can… Sep 30, 2018 at 17:39
  • Needs a rewrite since the language has changed but it worked in 2014! github.com/gchiu/Rebol3/blob/master/scripts/pubmed.reb Oct 3, 2018 at 4:48

2 Answers 2


In my personal view on this I would say that requiring this format is going too far. Some answers might benefit from simpler references and simple links that will not fit into this scheme.

But this is a good idea nevertheless. In some aspects at least.

A reference should be meaningful, and should be meaningful in the future. Giving the year seems most important to evaluate at glance its relevance concerning up-to-dateness. Giving the title is important to make this reference re-searchable, if a link should go blind or change otherwise. These names are less important to find that article again, especially since not all journals seem to agree on how to format titles and christian names. If a direct link is provided, then a DOI and a on top of that is of course extra service but a bit redundant.

These reservations expressed: if we adopt this model informally, that is lead by example in using this or a variant, then this might serve as an example of the format of references expected, compared to a barren and primitive hyperlink. It would also better indicate future visitors the quality level of the content that is generally well received here.

Depending on our future scope I doubt that this is even really enforceable in all cases.

Most important would be to provide a link to an accepted, reliable source, ideally via a permalink, state title, year. Preferably liberate some content, especially if locked behind a paywall, that is not found in the openly accessible abstract. Some essential quotes should be strongly encouraged.

To exercise those points most important to me on your example:

No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrate (2013):
Results: In all participants, gastrointestinal symptoms consistently and significantly improved during reduced FODMAP intake, but significantly worsened to a similar degree when their diets included gluten or whey protein. Gluten-specific effects were observed in only 8% of participants. There were no diet-specific changes in any biomarker. During the 3-day rechallenge, participants' symptoms increased by similar levels among groups. Gluten-specific gastrointestinal effects were not reproduced. An order effect was observed.
Conclusions: In a placebo-controlled, cross-over rechallenge study, we found no evidence of specific or dose-dependent effects of gluten in patients with NCGS placed diets low in FODMAPs. – – – –
[…] In conclusion, these consecutive double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over rechallenge studies showed no evidence of specific or dose-dependent effects of gluten in patients with NCGS placed on a low FODMAP diet. A high nocebo response was found regardless of known background dietary triggers being controlled and reproducibility of symptom induction to a specific protein was poor. These data suggest that NCGS, as currently defined, might not be a discrete entity or that this entity might be confounded by FODMAP restriction, and that, at least in this highly selected cohort, gluten might be not be a specific trigger of functional gut symptoms once dietary FODMAPs are reduced.

  • Your link might be to scihub, which might degrade so it's important to keep the doi Mar 17, 2018 at 18:53
  • And I would say recommend rather than require. Mar 17, 2018 at 19:06
  • Linking to that 'site' is a cat&mouse game. Those links die quicker than anything else. – Recommend/require: I said "not require", if you say "recommend", then I will not edit this answer, since we seem to agree on that (-> ~ We shall recommend a style like this instead of mere hyperlinks)? Mar 17, 2018 at 19:50
  • Still it's useful sometimes when a question is first answered to provide full text links though as noted they do degrade rapidly. Mar 17, 2018 at 20:15
  • Seems a little futile in my eyes to provide links that are suspect to quick failure. You know of unpaywall? I prefer fulltext from openaccess, then licensed by my institutions, then unpaywall, only then any hubs. One of the intentions in quoting from the text is: you (we) have access, you liberate the essential parts for the readers here and for th impact and and the flow of your answer/argument, with the perfectly legal and legitimate right to quote and cite essential parts. Mar 17, 2018 at 20:23
  • No, never heard of it. I have access to any Journal anyway but readers don't Mar 18, 2018 at 18:28
  • Anyway, as I said, I'd like to see some uniformity adopted to make it look more professional. If that means not linking to hub sites I can avoid that. Mar 18, 2018 at 19:37
  • @GrahamChiu Noble and sensible goal. I'll support that. Perhaps you should add an A yourself so that we can gauge the community's view on this (how far). Although I'd really like to see an answer here that would argue for much laxer standards before the voting starts. – As stated, as a recommendation your suggestion would be the "gold standard" to strive for… Mar 18, 2018 at 19:46
  • Roche provide access to physicians world wide to most any publication. I can just request it and they post it to me. Mar 19, 2018 at 7:32
  • 3
    @GrahamChiu I agree with leading by example, informally. My issue is that we already have professionals reluctant to take the time to find a resource for their statements; adding a REQUIRED format that would take additional time makes it even less likely we'd retain quality participation w/ references. I've seen your examples and appreciate the effort, I think it encourages higher standards
    – DoctorWhom
    Mar 22, 2018 at 18:21

"The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move."

Source: Douglas Adams, The More Than Complete Hitchhiker's Guide. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Chapter 1, p. 150.

In my view, this is the most desirable citation format.

  • When reading a post, references don't matter that much, hence they're in <sup>.
  • I need them and might want to check on them later for specific claims, hence they are provided below the extract (endnotes aren't really handy because I'd have to check back and forth.
  • Links might rot, hence you need to provide a definite "address" consisting out of author, name, publisher etc. This also provides the opportunity of quickly evaluating the trustworthiness of the reference without reading the whole paper.
  • If possible, a link to a free version of the text could help users who are interested into the source.

As an example from a post of mine (yes, I'm shamelessly self-advertising my way of providing reference, because, obviously, I consider that to be best. Otherwise I'd not follow that way):

The proportion of patients judged to have experienced distress at the time of the AAGA increased with Michigan score (Figure 7.5): distress was most common when pain and paralysis were experienced together, with 17 of 22 patients reporting distress (77%).

Source: 5th National Audit Project of The Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland: Accidental Awareness during General Anaesthesia in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Report and findings of the 5th National Audit Project, Chapter 7, p. 51. 2014

So, that's it. It's easy to read, not blocking the important bits and helping anyone backtrack the source even if the link disappears sometime in the future.

  • Curious: Is there a reason for using <sup> vs <sub>? Apr 3, 2018 at 22:08
  • Indifferent. I really like either because of the smaller font size.
    – Narusan
    Apr 3, 2018 at 22:09
  • Valid reason. I thought you might have insight into the vertical placement and special preferences for that. –– Although I've had a fair share of comments complaining about the small sizes… Not everybody can be happy. Apr 3, 2018 at 22:11
  • @LangLangC No preference there, doesn't really make a difference AFAIK
    – Narusan
    Apr 3, 2018 at 23:04

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