Two questions were posted that used a link to the Google Play store and a screenshot of the app as their citation. The same user also posted to the Chemistry Stack Exchange site with the same method.

What is the proper way to provide a citation if a smartphone app is used as a source?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Which questions were those? $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Aug 25 '18 at 18:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It appears that the answers have been removed as spam because the app was written by the author of the answer without disclosing that fact. $\endgroup$ Aug 25 '18 at 19:08

Short answer
Smartphone apps shouldn't be used, or cited to build a proper answer or question.

Smart phone apps shouldn't be cited on scientific stacks. Even if they are knowledge databases of some kind, we need more proper sources than that. Personally I dislike even wikipedia as a source for the premise of an answer (or question), as the content is volatile, subject to change, stacked with circle referencing (A can be explained by B - link to B says that B can be explained by A) and indeed often outright incorrect. It's fine to use it as a link to highlight a term and use it for background purposes, but to use wilkipedia as a source to build your answer on, I would say no. Likewise, smartphone apps can be build by anyone, and stuffed with nonsense matter, which is not regulated, controlled, or reviewed in any way.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Additionally one you could argue that the app is not the source. If you do this, you could also add Firefox or Chrome as a "source". $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Aug 27 '18 at 5:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris Good point :) $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Aug 27 '18 at 8:09

The site's own FAQ on How to reference material written by others says:

  • Provide a link to the original page or answer
  • Quote only the relevant portion
  • Provide the name of the original author

One possible standard to use in this case would be the American Phsycological Association's (APA) Style Blog which has an posting "How to Cite a Mobile App" by Chelsea Lee.

The style they use is:

Rightsholder, A. A. (year). Title of Software or Program (Version number) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from http://xxxxx

This question has also been asked and answered on the Academic Stack Exchange site as "How to cite a Google Play app?". The answer there cites the APA Style Blog as well.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 I think this is a valid response to the question asked. If an app provided a user the means to ask/answer a question, it's not harmful to include a citation (though this is certainly not preferred -- see @Chris's comment to AliceD's post). Regardless of whether the app itself is cited, much more important (as AliceD's post suggests) is that the user cites the underlying info source the App user used to generate his/her app. This is more work, but the correct approach $\endgroup$ Nov 29 '18 at 22:19

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