I want to cite a series of three papers (condensed-matter physics, if it matters) where the first author is a different person in each case, say authors A, B and C, but all the papers come from the same group led by author D. That is, the list of authors in each paper is "A, ..., and D", "B, ..., and D", and "C, ..., and D".

Cited independently, I would refer to these papers as "A et al.", "B et al." and "C et al.". However, I want to cite them as the most correct variant of "a series of papers by D's group".

My question is whether this is acceptable as above or it would undermine the work done by A, B and C, considering boss D was paying them but probably was too busy to work out the details of the paper, and most of the work was presumably done by A, B and C.

Is there a standard styling for these cases I can rely on?


I finally just opted by

... as pointed out by the same group of authors on a series of papers [1-3], ...

which I think strengthens the idea that A, B, and C did not reach their conclusions separately but as part of a wider collaboration.

  • This is exactly the reason for the phrase "X and {colleagues, co-authors, co-workers}."
    – aeismail
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 14:04
  • 1
    What's wrong with "A et al., B et al., and C et al."?
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 16:22
  • Nothing wrong, I could just do that, but I want to emphasize the unity of the work, rather the individuality of the different papers. The only common author in this otherwise very "compact" work is the group leader.
    – Miguel
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 18:15
  • If you want to emphasize the unity of the work, emphasize the unity of the work, not the common coauthor.
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 1:17

3 Answers 3


This is most likely a field-culture thing, but I find it very odd that you would treat the three papers as anything but independent pieces of work. If you want to indicate that the three papers are part of a series, you could always say something like

a series of papers [1,2,3] presented blah blah

On the one hand, you want to give the "group leader" prominence, and on the other hand you clearly recognize the potential unfairness. I can imagine some of my students being rightly upset if their dissertation work was referred to as "work from the lab of Prof. Venkat".

I realize that many lab-driven disciplines are top-down in this way, but since there's a perfectly reasonable way to cite the work, I'd avoid highlighting the "lab leader" any more than merely by their presence on the author list.

  • Thanks for your contribution. As a matter of fact, one of the papers is "Title. Part I", the following one is "Title. Part II", and the third one is very similar. So there is a very clear continuity in the series except for the list of authors, where only the group leader is a constant. It is acknowledging this continuity while not diminishing the work of the first author of each paper that poses the issue.
    – Miguel
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 18:21
  • 1
    Why do you have to "acknowledge the continuity" any more than the authors do in the way they construct their titles ? And why does this have to be established by emphasizing the "group leader" (which is a horrible term btw)
    – Suresh
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 19:03

This really depends on what you are doing. I think it is fine to do

D and colleagues have written about X (A et al., XXXX; B et al., XXYY; C et al., XXZZ).

buy you need to ask yourself what, beyond avoiding the passive voice, it adds over

X has been written about (A et al., XXXX; B et al., XXYY; C et al., XXZZ).

One case where it might be useful is if you are pointing out a potential bias or criticizing a technique.

  • 1
    No criticism, just building up on previous work. The work these different people have done is on the same topic, so the continuity in the subject is provided by the group environment and its line of research, and this is in turn held together by the group leader and common author. I want to acknowledge this line of research but at the same time, having published a few papers myself, I know that it is the PhD students or postdocs who probably did most of the work.
    – Miguel
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 13:46

Where are you sending the work? It might be such that the citation style is numeric, and then you can write whatever words you like:

D and colleagues A, B, and C developed the state of the art in this area over the last several years [1-3].


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