How To Cite A Github Repository: Cite Github Repositories With Right Citation

Performing academic citations can be a messy process, especially when it involves digital platforms like GitHub.

In this post, we’ll explore the essentials of citing a GitHub repository, offering a step-by-step guide to ensure your references are accurate and compliant with standard citation formats.

Whether you’re a student, researcher, or developer, understanding how to properly acknowledge GitHub repositories in your work is crucial for maintaining academic integrity and fostering open collaboration in the digital age.

How To Cite A Github Repository

For APA style:

  1. start with the author’s name. If you have a hard time finding the author, use the GitHub username.
  2. Next, type the year the repository was created.
  3. If there’s a subtitle, type it in sentence case after a colon.

The title of the program goes in italics. Then, add “GitHub” as the name of the publisher and include the URL. Remember to place a period at the end.

Let’s look at one example:

Doe, J. (2023). SuperCoolProject: An innovative approach to data analysis [Software]. GitHub. https://github.com/jdoe/SuperCoolProject

  • Doe, J. is the author of the code. If you’re having trouble finding the author’s real name, you can use the GitHub username instead.
  • (2023) is the year the repository was created or most recently updated. If you can’t find a specific date, use the copyright date if available.
  • SuperCoolProject: An innovative approach to data analysis is the title of the program or project. The title is followed by “[Software]” to clarify the type of resource being cited.
  • GitHub is listed as the name of the publisher since GitHub hosts the repository.
  • https://github.com/jdoe/SuperCoolProject is the URL where the repository can be accessed.

In BibTeX, the process is similar but tailored for LaTeX documents. Use the @misc entry type, then fill in the author, title, year, and how you accessed the repository.

For the URL, use the howpublished field. If the repository has a DOI, use that for a more stable link.

For both styles, ensure you copy the capitalization used in the repository’s title. If the title includes code, place it inside square brackets and keep the first word and any proper nouns capitalized.

If the repository is part of a larger project or institution, you might want to include this in the citation, especially if your instructor or advisor or the academic department you’re submitting to requires it.

Including citation files in repositories is becoming more common, thanks to tools like Zenodo, which can archive a snapshot of your repo and assign it a DOI. This makes citing even easier, as you can often find a preferred citation format ready to use.

Remember, the goal is to reference the code and data accurately and ethically, ensuring others can find and use the original source. Citation format is the same regardless of your work, such as:

  • coursework,
  • research, or
  • publication.

How To Cite Files From Zenodo

Citing files from Zenodo is actually quite easy, since it provides a citation box right on the dataset’s page. You’ll find everything you need there:

  • title,
  • authors,
  • year of publication,
  • or the DOI (Digital Object Identifier).

For APA format, you might cite a dataset like this:

Smith, J. (2022). Amazing Data Set [Data set]. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1234567.

Remember, the title is in italics, and there’s a period at the end of the URL.

If you’re using BibTeX, Zenodo has got you covered. Just click on the ‘Export’ button and choose ‘BibTeX’. It gives you a ready-to-use entry that looks like this:

@dataset{smith_2022, title={Amazing Data Set}, DOI={10.5281/zenodo.1234567}, publisher={Zenodo}, author={Smith, John}, year={2022}, month={Jun}}.

Copy this into your BibTeX file, and you’re set.

Zenodo links up nicely with GitHub too. If your data is tied to a GitHub repository, Zenodo can archive it and give you a DOI.

This means you can cite both your source code and data together, making your research reproducible without the tears.

How To Cite Files From Figshare

Citing files from Figshare is straightforward and helps you give proper credit in your academic work. Figshare items come with a DOI, making them easy to cite.

When you find a file on Figshare you want to use, look for the citation information right on the page.

In APA format, a Figshare citation might look like this:

Johnson, A. (2021). Innovative Research Data [Data set] Figshare.  https://doi.org/10.xxxx/figshare.123456.

Here, you type the author’s name, the year the data was published, the title in italics, and the DOI. Remember, there’s a period at the end.

For those using BibTeX, Figshare provides a handy export option. You can get a BibTeX entry that looks something like this:

@article{Johnson_2021, title={Innovative Research Data}, url={https://doi.org/10.xxxx/figshare.123456}, DOI={10.xxxx/figshare.123456}, publisher={Figshare}, author={Johnson, Alice}, year={2021}}.

Just copy and paste this into your BibTeX file, and you’re good to go.

Whether you’re citing datasets, images, or articles from Figshare, always use the DOI provided. It’s a persistent identifier that won’t change, ensuring others can always access the source. 

It’s Not Rocket Science To Cite Github Repositories

Properly citing a GitHub repository in your academic or professional work not only respects the original creators but also enhances the credibility of your own work.

By following the guidelines outlined for various citation formats, you can seamlessly integrate digital resources into your research, ensuring your citations are both accurate and ethical.

Remember, the key to successful citation lies in attention to detail and adherence to the specific requirements of each citation style, fostering a culture of respect and integrity in the digital community.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.