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I originally posted this question at SO, but two users there suggested that I take it here.

I am writing a scientific research paper, and I want to know if it is appropriate to cite bash, and if so, how should I do so?

I am having trouble finding a citation for bash because bash is relatively ubiquitous in programming and it is often just referred to as the 'command line'.

Is there a key or foundational reference for this program? What citation should I use?

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What style guideline will your paper be adhering to? This is important, as different style guidelines have different citation styles. – justkt Dec 21 '10 at 20:47
@justkt American Naturalist is a typical style: author, year, title, journal, vol(issue):pp-pp actually, I use LaTeX with Bibtex to automatically format the references, what I am mostly looking for is the required information – David LeBauer Dec 21 '10 at 20:54
David, that last sentence of your question seems rather...incomplete. Typo? – sjohnston Dec 21 '10 at 22:49
@sjohnston yes... sorry – David LeBauer Dec 21 '10 at 22:51
@David: What exactly are you citing? The source code, the man page, something else? – HedgeMage Dec 22 '10 at 3:06
up vote 5 down vote accepted

The sources in the reference list generally validate particular claims that are made in the body of the text. Some style manuals support putting software resources in the reflist, like APA, some don't, like Chicago.

In APA (6th ed., section 7.08), the reference should look something like:

Free Software Foundation (2007). Bash (3.2.48) [Unix shell program]. Retrieved from http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/bash/bash-3.2.48.tar.gz

Here, the FSF is identified as the rights holder, and the version used for the results in the paper is identified, and the URL for downloading that version of Bash is given. This form is appropriate when the software is used to generate results that are the source for claims in the paper.

If you want to cite a particular claim about Bash that comes, say, from a web page, then cite that web page specifically, with a literal quote. If you just generally want to identify Bash through a webpage, then use a footnote or endnote, and link to the project webpage at http://www.gnu.org/software/bash/. Don't put anything in the reflist in this case.

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