My situation is the following: I am a prospective graduate student and recently worked with a professor and a high school student on writing a physics paper. This will be my first paper, and since I intend to apply to graduate school, I would like to appear as first author.

I know from other students who have worked with this professor that he gives them the opportunity to be first authors. However, this time I am not the only student collaborating with him. Therefore, I was wondering if it would be appropriate to ask my advisor if I can appear as first author. After all, I was the one who contributed the most to the project (although the high school student also made some contributions).


1 Answer 1


Yes, of course you can ask, and give the reason. But it may be moot depending on your field. In some fields, alphabetical listing is the norm. In others it is vitally important and fought over.

If you are in a field in which it is important, then I hope your advisor is a bit generous in this since you are starting out. But if you aren't the main driver of the ideas in the paper then you should be prepared to yield graciously. Other papers will come. Your first paper isn't, hopefully, the best work you ever do. There will be future opportunities but they depend, somewhat, on cooperation with others. You can also be generous. Especially if you are willing to take a long view.

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