In an answer to the question Can the Bioguard X bracelet protect the body from radiation? I references some correspondence I had with one of the people related to the matter.

What is the right way to give the source to such conversations. As linking to a specific email correspondence is impossible (to the best of my knowledge). Are screen clippings the best way, or are there other ways which are better?

And in a related issue, but not the same as in that answer. Can we source a discussion we had with an expert in the field (for example a professor at a university that studies the subject), but who is not related directly to the questioned myth? Should we do it, as his answer will not be peer-reviewed?

  • Obviously, that I mean that I can source the discussion and not that it was a verbal talk with no evidence to its existence.
    – SIMEL
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 16:10
  • A link to a youtube(or other) video of the exchange would work well.
    – Chad
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 17:27

2 Answers 2


The traditional way is "(Personal Communication)".

However, we generally are dismissive of such references. It is very difficult to verify that:

  1. The SE user didn't just make up/make a mistake with the reference.
  2. If they did contact someone, that the person contacted is who they say they are, and have the expertise they claim to have.
  3. Even if it is an expert, having them make a statement isn't as powerful as having them commit to a peer-reviewed journal, or at least provide references for their claims.

I personally don't mind this being used to add some colour, rather than hard facts (and I have tried contacting a few of the people mentioned in the stories). In this particular case, the people were being quoted about what their own opinion was, so the lack of references wasn't the problem - the lack of authentication was.

Another approach, where applicable, is - if they are known bloggers or tweeters - to informally publish their answer, so we have at least some one level of authentication.

It is also ideal to get someone expert in the area to submit an answer directly, but only if they use that expertise to provide references to support their claims. If they do that, it doesn't really matter who they truly are.

  • What do you mean in "(Personal Communication)" can you show an example?
    – SIMEL
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 14:50
  • @IlyaMelamed see here for two examples: owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/03 (E. Robbins, personal communication, January 4, 2001). A. P. Smith also claimed that many of her students had difficulties with APA style (personal communication, November 3, 2002).
    – Sam I Am
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 17:51
  • @SamIAm I've edited your comment in the answer.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 10:57

I would expect at least some form of "hard copy" (direct text copy, screenshot) originating from the expert themselves. A lot can be lost in interpretation by a layperson. (Malcolm Gladwell is the paragon in this realm.)

But in many circumstances, we seem to ignore the direct statements of experts when they come here themselves, unless they are published statements. For instance. Also.

  • Oh my, I now feel vindicated in my instinctive distrust of Gladwell upon first hearing of his books (yes, quite a non-skeptic approach in itself …). Commented May 17, 2012 at 20:42
  • @KonradRudolph I recall his This American Life appearance also rubbed me the wrong way, but I don't remember quite why.
    – Dave
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 20:46

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