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At the moment I'm writing my master-thesis in the area of information systems. Because I developed some code to demonstrate my approach, I also mention some software tools in my proof-of-concept section. I'm talking about the ones used at multiple places, that are not really important.

  • Shall I describe them in the appendix or somewhere else?
  • Shall I link them to the description each time I mention a certain tool?
  • Shall I give a link to their website in the footnotes?

I know, that there is no right and wrong to this. Nevertheless, I have the freedom and I'm searching for a good approach. Maybe someone had the same problem or knows which existing thesis has an elegant solution.

At the moment, I put a link in the footnote at the first mentioning of a tool; I also have a short description for the software tools in the appendix.

  • How do you reference other, non-software external content, especially that which you reference repeatedly throughout the text? – a CVn Dec 19 '18 at 19:04
  • I'm not sure what you are asking for. I'm using Latex and referencing to sources via \autocite and to graphics, sections and other via \cref. – So S Dec 19 '18 at 20:30
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    Do you expect your code to be broadly useful? To your committee, to the public? I suggest footnotes and a dedicated appendix for all software references. – DPT Dec 20 '18 at 0:02
  • Not really at the first place. But if someone wants to rebuild or understand my approach on a deeper level, he/she also needs to know what these external software tools are used for. – So S Dec 21 '18 at 8:57
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I would check with your department on the standard structure of a thesis. Typically these questions are addressed in the relative documentation.

If your thesis includes a methods section, then, by all means, list your software tools there, including how you used them, and make sure you conclude each mention with a correct (and lasting) reference in the bibliography.

If your thesis does not include an explicit methods section, then mention the tool when you first use it, describe its function, and add a bibliographical reference; in later sections you can write "we use software XYZ for the task (see section XX and reference YY)" where you refer both to your description on how to use the software tool, and to the bibliographical reference. Note that if you use your software tool in a different manner you should describe its alternative use.

Please, do not include Windows, Linux, or any operative system as a software tool if they are just a generic platform on which you are running your software. The same goes for any other tool (software or not) that is not specific and necessary for your research.

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