Forgive me if this is a duplicate; i found a few somewhat similar questions, but none which matches my situation exactly.

I wrote a bachelor's thesis in computer science. After I was done, we (myself, my supervisor, my professor) tried to get it published. We have succeeded now after some unsuccessful attempts and a few days ago, my supervisor asked me whether I would be okay with him being the first author on the paper, which would help him towards completing his PhD.

  • Would I be correct in refusing this? I just don't see how I can NOT be the first author when it is my own thesis. Note that naturally, we did not publish the exact thesis; we significantly shortened it. It is a review paper and the bulk of the review work is still my work; he added main parts of the conclusion and some things throughout the paper
  • If I am correct in refusing this, how can I communicate this? Is there any document which might help me in formulating an answer? So far, I have only found a document by the APA which says "A student is usually listed as principal author on any multiple-authored article that is based primarily on the student’s dissertation or thesis." [1] Does anyone know of a similar document for computer science / the natural sciences? AFAIK, my university doesn't have an explicit rule; it only says that the authorship of a thesis is solely with the student since anything else (e.g. having the advisor as co-author) would be against the notion of a thesis being a demonstration of the student's capabilities.


publish modified bachelor's thesis

get accepted

Supervisor: Can I be first author?

Want to say no but not sure if I'm right / how to communicate

[1] https://www.apa.org/science/leadership/students/authorship-paper.pdf

Edit The subfield is rather applied.

  • 2
    Where is this, please?
    – Buffy
    Jun 23, 2019 at 21:33
  • I'm inclined to agree with @Buffy's suggestion that the location is likely to be important here. It strikes me as very strange that being first author on a review paper co-authored with an undergraduate would help your supervisor toward completing his Ph.D. But I realize that some places regard as completely standard things that strike me as very strange. Jun 24, 2019 at 0:24
  • There is no "standard" for first author, second author or 24th author, it seems to vary proportionally to the number of institutions and supervisors... Perhaps you need to do what is "politically" correct or easier - you will have other publications during your career...
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 24, 2019 at 5:54
  • @AndreasBlass I can only imagine that for his PhD he has to publish X papers as first author ... But in that case, being the first author on a paper for which I did most (but not all) of the work would be rather questionable!? Jun 24, 2019 at 21:08

1 Answer 1


Actually, the concept of "first author" is a bit foreign to CS in most places. Authors are listed alphabetically and only contributors are listed as authors. You say the supervisor contributed to the paper and if so should be an author.

I think you are correct to refuse if it is your thesis that is being published, and I think the university will back you on it. I hope so, anyway. But for a paper "related" to the work, it is a different issue.

But, you have a political problem. One way to handle it is not to publish a shortened version of the thesis jointly, but an extension. Publish the thesis under your own name, but acknowledge your advisor. Then get to work on an extension.

The concept of "first author" is common in other fields, of course, but not really in CS or in math.

  • 5
    How authorship order is handled varies by CS subfield. As a general rule though, subfields closer to math tend to go with alphabetical order.
    – Pontus
    Jun 23, 2019 at 22:18
  • 2
    It seems like the PhD-student supervisor wouldn't have asked to be first author if they were in a CS subfield where first authorship didn't matter. Jun 24, 2019 at 0:52
  • 1
    It's also not true in applied math, where first authorship often indicates the majority of work done. Jun 24, 2019 at 3:56
  • I'm very happy with the fact that my supervisor is an author, my question really only addressed the first author issue. I mean, it kind of works both ways: If his argument is "Let me be first author since ordering doesn't matter", I can counter with "No, I want to be first because it doesn't matter anyway." Jun 24, 2019 at 21:06
  • Regarding the "political problem": I actually don't think that I have a political problem because I've already left the university. Publishing the (slightly modified) thesis is an endeavor we all agreed upon, but there's no leverage or pressure involved ... Jun 24, 2019 at 21:11

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