Here is a question that I recently posted on MO. The last paragraph of the description reads:

The reason that I am interested in this question is that we are currently working on an assessment framework for assessing students' understanding of proof. Reading some previous posts on MO, It occurred to me that perhaps we are too naive in our approach just seeking for understanding logical structure, the key point and so on. It would be very informative if you kindly include in your answer the follow-up of the proof you mention.

Indeed, the answers to the question radically upgraded my view about the issue. Now, I am about to write a paper in which I need to refer to some of the answers. The normal practice is to refer to peoples' ideas anonymously. However, when it comes to MO, this would be impossible. What shall I do?

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds to me that your "experiment" had a serious design flaw. You can try to get all the authors to agree to relicense their answers so you can reuse them. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2013 at 23:03
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    $\begingroup$ Suggestion: I think it might be nice if one could combine answer citations into one citation, in order to minimize the overhead if one wants to cite many of them. I don't know exactly how this would work, but perhaps: [12] Mathoverflow: A. Smith, Question title, mathoverflow.net/questions/1234 (2010); B. Jones, Question title, mathoverflow.net/questions/9876 (2011); etc. Could this be an option? What do others think? $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2013 at 5:55
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    $\begingroup$ @DanielMoskovich, it seems to me that how to combine multiple sources into a single entry would be up to the style judgment of the particular author or publication, and is not specific to MO. It would be the same as if you were citing a series of papers "X-Structures in Y-spaces I--IV" in one entry. $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2013 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ @Daniel: Unless done carefully, this may be incompatible with the attribution requirement of the user contribution license. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2013 at 3:26
  • $\begingroup$ Some of the questions tagged citation at meta.MSE might be relevant. $\endgroup$ Jul 24, 2013 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ BTW I think that the tag (citation) might be appropriate for this question. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2014 at 12:44

2 Answers 2


If you click "share" at the bottom of the post, you will see the (ridiculously small!) cite option.

Share box screenshot

That will give you an example citation as well as a bibtex and an amsref entry you can cut and paste.

See also this old tea discussion.


I am not sure if this applies to your situation, as you seem to have something in mind I do not fully understand (namely, that the normal practise is to refer to peoples' ideas anonymously), but here is the official standard recommendation for citing MO:

Citing You are not legally obligated to cite where you learned things, but good citations are academically honest and they help your readers by making it easy to track things down. The recommended citation format for MathOverflow posts as follows. Suppose you're citing post number 1234 (which could be a question or an answer), whose author is John Doe.

[12] Doe, John. Title of the question. mathoverflow.net/questions/1234 (2010)

The important thing is to include a link to the relevant post. MathOverflow makes this easy to do in a couple of ways:

  • Even though the full URL of the question is http://mathoverflow.net/questions/1234/title-of-the-question everything after the question number can be safely omitted. It's just there to make it easier for search engines to understand what the page is about.

  • Even if post number 1234 is an answer rather than a question, the given URL will point to the right place. If you prefer, you can also link to the anchor with the URL http://mathoverflow.net/questions/123#1234. Here, I've assumed that post number 1234 is an answer to question number 123.

This was taken verbatim (except for formatting) from http://dumps.mathoverflow.net/ Note however that (I believe) the situation regarding URLs might have changed slightly, to get the URL of an answer the easiest way is to click on 'share' below it.

  • $\begingroup$ "The thing that I have in mind" is a paper in Mathematics education in which usually you have your own interpretation of certain facts and you support it by "examples" (i.e. most often than not, peoples' answers to a question, task, problem and so on). That is why you mention them anonymously, since after all their ideas will turn to be an example of your interpretation $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2013 at 20:11
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I see. Thank you for the explanation. So about like one does (AFAIK) for respondents in some psychological experiments. If you should consider the information in my answer as not at all relevant to your question, please, let me know and I will delete it. $\endgroup$
    – user9072
    Jul 7, 2013 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ It would indirectly be relevant, since your answer and the comment after clarified the question. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2013 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Every time I participated in education research, all the subjects had to sign an agreement outlining how the data will be used before the experiment. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2013 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ @FrançoisG.Dorais That's very true. But I hadn't an "experiment" in mind when I posted the question. But, later on, the answers radically changed my mind about the issue. Indeed, I think your suggestion under the body of the post is the way I should go. I will just ask them. $\endgroup$ Jul 8, 2013 at 5:23

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