Introducing Citation Files

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

Robin Wilson, of the University of Southampton, recently posted a note on the Software Sustainability Institute's blog about CITATION files. In brief, he (and we) would like to encourage scientific programmers to put a plain text file called CITATION in the root directory of each project, and to use it to tell readers how best to cite that software. The example Robin gives is:

To cite ggplot2 in publications, please use:

H. Wickham. ggplot2: elegant graphics for data analysis. Springer New York, 2009.

A BibTeX entry for LaTeX users is

    author = {Hadley Wickham},
    title = {ggplot2: elegant graphics for data analysis},
    publisher = {Springer New York},
    year = {2009},
    isbn = {978-0-387-98140-6},
    url = {},

This is similar in mechanism and intent to the README, LICENSE, and INSTALL files commonly found in open source projects, and while it's not a perfect solution, it's a pretty good one. So go ahead, write some CITATION files today and tweet your project's URL with the hash tag #citationfile; we'll post some of those links here soon.

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