Writing references to personal communication

by Thomas Mejtoft

Those who know do not talk. Those who talk do not know.

Lao Tsu

Reference to personal communication

These guidelines are based on the following sources:

Personal Communications by APA style
IEEE – Referencing Guide: Citing Personal Communications by Murdoch University

Harvard Referencing: Personal communications by Victoria University

From time to time there are information that needs to be referenced in a paper but there are no printed version (that are released to the public) of the statement but it all rely face-to-face or written communication between the author and the informant. Any communication that cannot be retrieved by a reader should be considered as “personal communication”. This can be a face-to-face conversation, an email, a text message, a phone call, social media messages (that are not public), etc. That is, any information that cannot be retrieved from public sources.

Personal communication should only be cited when it it the best source available. Do not use personal communication for information that can be found in published sources.

When referring to personal communication in writing, follow the examples below:

Only about half of students starting the five-year engineering program in Interaction Technology and Design graduate (T. Mejtoft, personal communication, February 12, 2022).

...

T. Mejtoft (personal communication, February 12, 2022) states that only about half of students starting the five-year engineering program in Interaction Technology and Design graduate.

...

In a personal interview with T. Mejtoft (February 12, 2022), he states that only about half of students starting the five-year engineering program in Interaction Technology and Design graduate.

...

In an email to the author (February 12, 2022), T. Mejtoft states that only about  half of students starting the five-year engineering program in Interaction Technology and Design graduate.

...

During a phone call, T. Mejtoft (February 12, 2022) stated that only about half of students starting the five-year engineering program in Interaction Technology and Design graduate.

Personal communication should not be included in the reference list (only sources that are, somehow, published should be in the reference list). Personal communication stating the source and the date should be in-text only.

The example above is for information that is treated as a source of information just like a reference. In many cases the results in a paper is based on interviews, which is a form of personal communication. However, regarding writing results, this example do not apply since then the results should be structured to conform with the method used.


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(First published by Thomas Mejtoft: 2021-12-27; Last updated: 2022-06-21)