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citing Vygotsky

By Steve Draper,   Department of Psychology,   University of Glasgow.

This page is about how best to cite the second of the two books by which Vygotsky's work is mostly known in the English-speaking (actually, English-reading) world.

The book "Mind in Society" is meant to represent the last phase of Vygotsky's thinking and work. However all of the base material was written in Russian, so it has been translated. In addition, it has been significantly edited; and more importantly, selected from four or more sources never intended by Vygotsky to comprise a book. How best to cite it? (Jump to my preferred solution, skipping the "working" to derive it.)

It is usually cited, even by experts, as:

The problems with the usual citation

  • The date is misleading, giving the impression that Vygotsky published 50 years after Piaget, and that Wood's work on contingent tutoring was prior to Vygotsky's original concept of zone of proximal development rather than inspired by it.
  • Doesn't alert readers to the fact that this is a translation, or that some criticise its reliability.
  • Doesn't alert readers to the fact that this is a selection or anthology, and was never a book designed by Vygotsky (in any language).

    The facts

    The following is all made clear enough in the book's preface: it is just that it is hidden in the way it is usually cited.

    The issues that can/should be expressed and/or addressed in citations

    APA etc. mechansims

    This section collects notes on what is allowed by the APA style manual. All ref.s here are to the APA (American Psychological Association) publication manual 6th edition, chs.6-7 (copy in the university library).


  • James (1890/1983) to express first pub, and edition now used
  • Aristotle (trans. 1931). [APA sec.6.18]
  • Can give French title as normal then translated title in [] after, but only if you are using the French version.
  • "In J.D.Smith (Ed. & Trans.) " [APA sec.7.02 e.g. 21]
  • Adding "Title (F. W. Truscott & F. L. Emory, Trans.). New York, NY: Dover." [APA sec.7.02 e.g. 26]
  • May append to whole thing (after URL, even): (Original work published 1900) [APA sec.7.02 e.g. 21]
  • If using a translation: bib as Piaget,J. (1999) English title (G.Smith, Trans.) and cite as Piaget (1932/1999) [APA sec.7.02 e.g. 26]


  • [ca. 1999] if date uncertain but likely. [APA sec. 6.28; sec.7.10 e.g. 67]
  • If not published, then year produced [APA sec. 6.28 p.185]
  • Give range if needed e.g. Vygotsky(1930-1934). But meant for a set of edited vols. [APA sec. 6.28; sec.7.10 e.g. 23, 65]
  • "(Piaget, 1970/1988)" is allowed by APA to indicate the original book, and the date of a later anthology reprinting part of it. [APA section 7.02; e.g.26]
  • Similarly for a republished source: (1969/1996). (On the other hand, when a later edition is modified and has a new copyright date, just give the latest.)

    Original manuscript

  • "(Original work published 1920)" appended to bib citation, is allowed by APA.
  • "(Original work published 1900)" [APA sec.7.02 e.g. 21]
  • Can say "Unpublished manuscript." i.e. instead of a publisher. [APA sec.7.09 e.g. 58]
  • => from which I invent "(Original manuscripts [ca. 1930-1934])"


  • May append after a normal ch. bib (Reprinted from ...) [APA sec.7.02 e.g. 26]
  • For author sets that also have "with A.N.Other" don't mention these in cite, but do have in bib: "Smith,S. & Jones, J. (with Evans, E.)" [APA sec.6.27 p.184]

    Possible ways to cite the book

    Although Vygotsky himself assembled no such book, it is usually cited, even by experts, as: If it were treated as a translated book, this would be:

    It could also be treated as an edited book. This is in fact how its compilers refer to themselves: they did major selection and also major editing; not to speak of the translation work. (From this perspective, perhaps it might better have been titled something like "Vygotsky's later writings" to get the name "Vygotsky" visible and indexed.)

    Or possibly as: My preferred solution?
    Perhaps this compromise might be best (if it can be got past journal editors). The manuscript production dates are appended but not declared as the primary date range in the bibliography, but are given in the in-line citation in addition to the publication date of the edited translation. Adding the editors as additional information is a reminder of their significant role in this case. Adding the translators is a reminder of this transformation too, and is done separately.

    Which citation to use?

    Depends what you want. I suggest the "compromise" version since so many of one's readers, e.g. students born in the 1990s, will not realise that Vygotsky was not alive in 1978. But it is consistent with how libraries catalogue it i.e. under "Vygotsky".

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