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Citing File Exchange Submissions 7

Posted by Helen Chen,

Many of our community members are involved in some aspect of research and publication. Often they find content on MATLAB Central’s File Exchange that they want to reference in a paper. The question is how does one actually cite files downloaded from File Exchange? It’s not like citing a book, because the nature of the File Exchange is that submitters can, and do frequently, update their files. So how can a reader tell if the version is the same version used by the author of the paper they are reading?

This topic was discussed by a group of senior community members a while back. The server where their final recommendations were documented has been decommissioned so I thought I’d share their recommendations here for our community members.

The Approach
There are many publication styles such as APA or Chicago styles. Different styles often recommend different formats, but the information that should be shared usually includes:

  • Name of the document you are citing
  • Name of the site the document is hosted on, in this case, MATLAB Central File Exchange
  • Web address or URL for downloading
  • Date that the document was downloaded for the research being discussed in the publication


In this example, we are referencing a work by John D’Errico which has been on File Exchange since November 2005 and has been updated several times since. It’s a great example of why the retrieval date is important in a citation. If I were to author a paper referencing this file, here are my options on the citation:

With hyperlinks:
D’Errico, John (2005). Surface Fitting using gridfit, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved May 18, 2006.

In clear text, such as in a printed document:
D’Errico, John (2005). Surface Fitting using gridfit (, MATLAB Central File Exchange. Retrieved May 18, 2006.

If you need something shorter:
Surface Fitting using gridfit by John D’Errico, May 18, 2006

So if you are authoring a paper, don’t forget to include this information for your users. And if you are reading a paper and you are downloading a file from MATLAB Central, don’t forget to check the publication date on the file in File Exchange.
Check file date.

Many thanks to the team of community members who worked together to establish these recommendations!


Comments are closed.

7 CommentsOldest to Newest

Sven replied on : 1 of 7
On a somewhat related note, is there any technique that users here employ to keep their file exchange up-to-date? For example, if John happens to update his gridfit entry, I receive a helpful little email telling me so and I can redownload and replace my files, but I was wondering if anyone has attempted a kind of version control that tries to automate the updating process in any way.
admin replied on : 2 of 7
Sven, I haven't heard of anyone doing this, but it sounds like a nifty idea. Some might want put the automatic download in a separate directory if you have customized the file at all or if you need to do some testing in your environment to makes sure it works for your needs before moving to production. Helen
Petter replied on : 3 of 7
You could add a button which would generate a citation in a couple of useful formats, e.g. HTML and Bibtex.
Terrance M. Nearey replied on : 4 of 7
Re Petter's proposal (response 3). I second it but would ask that export options include whatever it takes to allow the great freeware reference management tool Zotero (TM) can import directly( one click --without intermediate file saves and imports). Google Scholar does this for example, though many library and publisher sites don't.
Yair Altman replied on : 6 of 7
@Sven - I have implemented such an automated update mechanism in my a few of my submissions (UIInspect for example). The application checks the FEX download page and if it sees any new version, it asks the user whether to download and use it or not (or to never check again). You can reuse the code from UIInspect for any of your utilities (it's near the bottom of the uiinspect.m file). Of course, if there was some automated way to "subscribe" to updates from any FEX utility, that would be much better...