question about referencing code...


======= Date Modified 12 Jan 2012 17:27:03 =======
If someone else makes a major suggestion on a piece of work, such as fixing a significant piece of code, do you have to acknowledge that person even if the help was only verbal?

The example is that I had an idea for something but couldn't get it to work, and another person managed it for me. I can't see how to reference without saying something like "...using the above algorithm (developed by random bloke across the hall, 2012).

Or what if you see a solution to your exact problem online, on a forum or file exchange, but you can't remember where?

There is one line in one block of code which is particularly problematic because it is quite an important topic for my thesis but I didn't write it myself. I came up with the idea, and another person got the code to work brilliantly. It's quite new in my field and I'm hoping to publish a paper based on it. Everyone who has helped will be in my acknowledgements, of course, but it still seems to imply that I did all of the programming myself, when I didn't.

I don't really know what to do.


I'm in a similar position with a friend having made some of my code functional that was running unusably slowly. I've been planning with him just to put him in acknowledgements. He knows this and is happy with it, if the examiners ask I'll tell them specifically which bits he helped with. I think if you want to put in a reference I would put it as a pers. comm. but I don't really see the point of these except as a courtesy since its difficult to follow them up. Could you see what bloke across the hall would prefer?

I'm also stuck on how to reference coding help received from forums and haven't any ideas on that point, particularly when you don't know the real name of the person who has helped you.


Treat code the same as any other bit of work, treat your work like your writing a publication because if it's any good that's where it will end up.

Your code is (or at least part of) your 'methods'. Did the person make a significant intellectual contribution to your method? If so, then they go on the author list. Did they help out just a little? If so, they go in the acknowledgements. Of course there are other factors such as politics and regional/lab/cultural issues when dealing with author lists to consider as well. Obviously this is just my personal opinion.