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Let's consider two papers, one by authors A1, A2, A3 and one by authors B1, B2, B3. In the case of two publications by the same research group, some of the authors may be the same, some may be new… Typically, the senior author/team leader is the same, which means that A3 = B3 (in fields where the senior author is typically listed last).

Now, my question is: in which cases is it okay to refer to the earlier work by the words “the authors”, as in “the authors have shown in [ref] that…”? Is it only okay if the two author sets are strictly equal? Or is it used when A ⊂ B or A ⊃ B? Or when the first author is the same?

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I would avoid it altogether, why not simply write B1 et. al have shown that...? –  gerrit Nov 20 '12 at 13:07
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In a paper by X and others, it seems a bit weird to write “X et al. have shown that…” –  F'x Nov 20 '12 at 13:08
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@F'x: it's weird to write (I've been there :)), but it's not that weird to read actually, and I guess that would be the best thing to do. –  Charles Morisset Nov 20 '12 at 13:38
    
Of course this situation will only come up occasionally unless you are in the habit of submitting a lot of MPUs. –  dmckee Nov 20 '12 at 14:34
    
@dmckee: Yes, but that's one of the reasons the situation feels so awkward. –  JeffE Nov 20 '12 at 14:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I would avoid "the authors" unless it is exactly the same set of authors (preferably in the same order).

I don't see anything wrong with "B1, A2 and B3 have shown that..." even when A2 is one of the authors of the present paper. It seems a little strange at first, but is quite common. I have also seen phrases like "B1 and the second author have shown that..." to refer to a paper by B1 and A2 while avoiding mentioning A2 by name, but in more complicated examples it gets pretty unwieldy.

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+1, Similar to your second suggestion, especially when there is a clear "lead authority" on a topic, I've used B1 and colleagues have shown. It is similar to to gerrit's suggestion in a comment on the question, and avoids the awkward use of et al. when not citing a specific set of authors. –  Andy W Nov 20 '12 at 14:14
    
@JeffE I'm not sure I understand you comment (what does “this” stand for)… could you detail it a bit? –  F'x Nov 22 '12 at 21:55
    
Sorry, I'll clarify: If your name is AndyW and you are the "lead authority" on some topic, do not write "AndyW and colleagues have shown...". –  JeffE Nov 23 '12 at 5:24

What about the passive

It has been shown that ... (refs)

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First, passive voice is generally to be avoided. Second, the phrase "it has been shown that" carries no information; just delete it. Third, people should get credit for their work, by name, even if the name is your own. –  JeffE Nov 20 '12 at 14:47

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