My question is the following. Should references in math papers be arranged according to author’s last-names or first-names?

  • 6
    This seems like the kind of thing which should be answered by the style manual of whatever journal you are hoping to publish in. That said, I can't say that I've ever seen references arranged by first name. I've seen them ordered by when they are first referenced in a paper, by author's last name, and even by publication year, but never by first name. :/ Jul 12, 2023 at 2:22
  • Thank you! The paper I am talking about I only plan on submitting to arXiv
    – user227351
    Jul 12, 2023 at 2:30
  • 1
    I'm not quite sure why you would only post something on arXiv (since arXiv is not peer reviewed, hence material there is not really part of the accepted scientific record), but if that is the case, you are pretty much free to do whatever you like. Jul 12, 2023 at 2:33

3 Answers 3


If "should be" means to be received as useful or standard by mathematicians looking at your document, then references should be ordered by last names, not first names.

Also, in the contemporary style of ordering authors alphabetically, you'd order citations by the last name of first author.

And, indeed, I strongly endorse this, as, otherwise, it's stupidly difficult to understand the bibliography directly, especially if it's large.


Usually according to last names. Alternatively you can arrange them in the order of citation. Both work, and if the aim is only arXiv then it's pretty free.

Edit: Alright, to be frank I'm from Computer Science so I don't really know the norms in math though I supposed the two should be similar. As Jochen Glueck suggested, arranging in the order of citation is extant but uncommon, so then I think last name would work out the best.

On the other hand, again, arXiv has virtually no restrictions whatsoever, so ultimately its your choice if arXiv is all you want.

  • 7
    In my experience it is extrenely uncommin in math to arrange the references in the order of citation - so uncommon that I particularly remember a special issue focussing on a math topic in a somewhat interdisciplinary journal; when the journal insisted on listing the references in the order of citation, various authors contributing to the special issue were rather irritated. Jul 12, 2023 at 6:18
  • 1
    @JochenGlueck Good to know! Thanks, edited.
    – user173920
    Jul 13, 2023 at 2:30

As the other answers said, by last names.

Generally speaking, a good way to answer questions like this is to browse through other math papers on the arXiv. Essentially all of them will be formatted very similarly, and will illustrate common conventions for how to format a paper and how the bibliography should look.

Your content should be unique of course! -- but on stylistic questions I recommend simply imitating what others do.

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