My official, legal name is A, but I'm know by most people as B. B relates to A as Bob to Robert, however this connection is only obvious in my country of origin where I am no longer based. I am known primarily as B, among my friends and colleagues. In order to build a consistent professional profile over the past several years I've been making a conscious effort to not use A at all, as I've noticed it causes some confusion. My undergraduate degree certificates have my legal name on them but I feel like in a Masters I am currently writing up I would like to proceed with "migrating" over to being a "full-time B". I am not sure though if that in itself won't generate damaging inconsistencies in my professional profile / online presence etc, with various certificates awarded under different names.

Should I use my official legal name or the one I'm known by on my Master's dissertation? What kind of problems can I expect from going either way?

  • 1
    What name did you use to register for the master's degree program? Sep 5, 2018 at 12:39
  • Are you planning on legally changing your name, or just using it? Sep 5, 2018 at 16:45
  • I registered using A, and ended up using it on my Masters thesis. I'm not planning to legally change it to B, only aspiring to be consistently known as B.
    – KubaFYI
    Sep 5, 2018 at 17:03

4 Answers 4


You could write your name as Robert "Bob" KubaFYI, if your university policy allows for it. At least in the US, that's a standard stylization to indicate a nickname or unofficial name one goes by regularly. Classmates of mine who were international students from Eastern Asia and had traditional legal names but went by English names commonly did this.


That is a question to ask your advisor. There are most likely rules on how the dissertation has to look like, including things like where to put the university and institute, how to mention the advisor and, of course, also how and where to put your name (e.g. "name must be the same as on transcript/certificate").

If there happen to be no rules regarding that at your specific university, then your advisor might still be the best to ask, as he knows both the names A,B and also the field you are aiming to work in, so he can say which name might be better.

edit: This recent question here might be relevant to you: Proving authorship when name in publications does not match name in passport


If you are going to change the name you are known by, it is best to do so early. The more you publish the harder it will be for people and the more likely it will be that you need to stick with a name you don't prefer. People will look more to your publication record than what is printed on your official transcripts and diplomas unless you are seeking a new job, etc. However, you can also help inform the world about your formal and informal names by listing yourself as, say, Robert (Bob) Smith. List the informal name in parentheses. It is also possible to footnote your formal name at the top of a paper with "Also known as Bob".

Some editors might object, I suppose, but I would probably press it. Professional women (and even men, actually) who change their surname at marriage often have a similar dilemma and may need to connect the two names in the public's eye.

I don't predict "trouble" no matter how you resolve it, but you will need to explain things to people as you go along until the name you use becomes closely associated with you.


If this is in the US, unless you have changed your name legally, it might be considered fraudulent by the authorities to use B instead of A.

My wife has a similar issue. Until she changed her name legally when we became citizens, she had to use her legal name instead of the one she is known by.

  • Going by a name other than one's legal name is fraudulent? Misrepresenting one's legal name to authorities would be fraudulent, but that's very far away from what the OP is suggesting. Sep 17, 2019 at 19:29
  • @StellaBiderman Yes, that’s why I said by the authorities in my answer. How is your point different from my answer?
    – Peter K.
    Sep 17, 2019 at 20:47

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