I am considering applying to a university for a Ph.D. The university wants to know about papers I published - I heard that traditionally the first author (of e.g. 4) is often considered the main one.

I published 3 papers - I did have guidance by a Professor on how to choose a structure, but in the end I wrote it on my own. For some "internal" reasons, the university did not allow me to put my name first - and there were other names (next to my Prof's) added as well.

On each paper there are now 4-5 names and my name is either 2nd or 3rd place.

  • How do I convey that I am the main author?

  • How do I convey that I did the work?

I dont want to deny the effort of my Prof guiding me and helping me with questions, but I also dont want to make it sound like it was "a collaborative effort" by all authors. Basically, I dont want to sound like a jackass.


2 Answers 2


I have seen different ways of this being handled but one way could be to write in brackets that you done around (50%) of the total work for the paper.

It is more common than you think, many published PhD thesis have papers in which the PhD student is the final author in all of the papers inside the thesis, but they include a note that they where responsible for 50% of the work.

Having papers published will look great regardless.


Possibly there is some other part of the application where you could detail your contributions on these papers - again without putting down your coauthors. This would be more helpful than author order (which is always a tenuous measure of author contributions as you now well know) in showing your independence on this work.

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