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QUESTION

If an author published an article with the name A, but later changed their name to B, using the latter in their publications.

Is there any general consensus about how to cite their work authored as A alongside their work as B, in order to avoid confusing the reader (believing those are two distinct authors when they are in fact the same person)?

Options which come to mind would be to cite them

  1. as "B (formerly known as A) introduced the concept of (...)[1] and proved that (...)[2]",
  2. as "B-A introduced the concept of (...)[1] and proved that (...)[2]" (albeit this might be confusing), or
  3. emailing the person to ask them their preference (which I will probably do).

Is one of them the usage, or is there any that I could not think about?

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES

  1. A researcher adopted the name of their spouse ("K") in their scientific articles, but later divorced their spouse and published under their original family name ("M").

  2. A researcher published under their family name ("V") but later married and combined their name with that of their spouse ("W", resulting in "V-W").

I want to avoid confusing the reader when citing work published under both the older and the present name, but hopefully without wasting space and reader's attention on personal details in a footnote. Lacking a proper answer I would contact the person, but I prefer to ask first if there is a general consensus.

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    Are you talking about a bibliographic reference & citation? Or about mentioning so-and-so in a literature review? If the former, I think you also need to account for the fact that the author's name attached to the article (possibly their former name) is an important piece of information for your readers who might want to find & consult the work you're citing; which would argue for citing their articles under the name A. Dec 13, 2023 at 18:13
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    I would say: use the form found in the published paper. After all, the purpose of the reference is to help someone find the paper, isn't it?
    – GEdgar
    Dec 13, 2023 at 19:59
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    Depending on circumstances, there may be reasons that a person might prefer not to have their change of name highlighted. Even if the individual doesn't mind, your readers will not know their views and may question your motives in announcing the issue publicly. In most cases I think it would best to avoid mentioning it at all.
    – avid
    Dec 13, 2023 at 22:47
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    An important real-life example that may affect handling: trans people sometimes change their name, and dead-naming such a person is (usually) considered quite rude. Dec 14, 2023 at 15:43

6 Answers 6

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If it's even necessary at all, use a footnote

My view is that the citation is an identification of the paper not the author. Moreover, for most research work we are interested in setting out the content of the relevant literature rather than worrying about who wrote it. The latter may be important in papers setting out the history of the development of a field, or writing about a specific researcher/author, but it is not usually the focus of our literature review and referencing. Consequently, in the standard case (i.e., when writing a paper that is not about the history of the development of a field or a specific researcher/author) there is usually no need to make any effort to identify that different paper are or aren't by the same author. If you refer to "Smith (1997)" and "Jones (1999)", both by the same author who started as Ms Smith but later got married and changes her name to Mrs Jones, this would still be fine because it still correctly identifies the papers at issue.

It sounds like you might be dealing with a slightly trickier case where the latter paper is an updated version of essentially the same work. If this is the case and you want to note for the reader that this is the same person, my view is that a footnote is perfectly adequate for this. You say you want to avoid wasting the reader's attention on a footnote, but that is precisely the purpose of footnotes --- to give some ancillary detail separated out from the body of the paper so as not to distract the flow of discussion.

It is also worth noting that this same problem occurs more broadly than just when there is a change of name. It can occur when different people have the same surname (often because people from the same family have become academics in the same field) and it can even occur because we have long lists of authors on some papers and so we only list them partially, with et al referring to the other authors. Thus, a set of papers all by the same authors (let us call them Nguyen, Jameson, Xi, and Foster) might be cited as "Nguyen et al", "Jameson et al", "Xi et al" and "Foster et al", leading to essentially the same situation you describe.

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    I think this is the right answer. The point of a citation is to allow readers to find the referenced paper. You can't find a paper if you don't provide the name of the authors as it was used on that paper. In all likelihood, you will not know anything about the lives of almost all authors you will ever cite, so not mentioning anything about changed names does not strike me as wrong. Dec 14, 2023 at 6:22
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    Your last point is especially true in fields where the last author is the senior author. In that case the first author might be the PhD student, followed by a post-doc, another colleague and only at the end the senior author. When a new paper is published, it will be by a new student, new post-doc but same senior author, who well likely be in the "et al." part of the authors' list.
    – Luca Citi
    Dec 14, 2023 at 22:41
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I guess this is little more than an opinion, but I think that citations should be made "as published" without alteration. That is the formal part. If you want to add a note that the name has been changed from A to B it would be fine, but the citation itself refers to an historical record.

My preference in adding a note would be to put it after the citation itself, perhaps in a footnote, not as an alteration of it. This aids in searching for things.


Imagine a case with three authors, all of whom have changed their names. Suppose it is also a case in which authors are listed alphabetically. "Who the heck are "Able, Baker, and Croft. There was a paper by Xavier, Yosarian, and Zeno with that title."


As a side note, I also suggest that new academics choose a name for publication purposes that they will stick with throughout their career. The common or legal name can be different from the publication identity. Among other things, your CV will be clearer.

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    I will be citing works from before and after the change of names. Just using the publication names could create the impression that they are distinct persons, which could be confusing. I added a minor comment to clarify this in the question. OF COURSE, the bibliography will have the publication names.
    – J..y B..y
    Dec 14, 2023 at 10:36
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    I don't even see the need to make a notation in the vast majority of cases, unless the biographical record of the cited author is under discussion in the paper. Dec 14, 2023 at 12:58
  • @ScottSeidman, yes, I agree. The record is what it is. Changing the names, can imply a new paper (and possible plagiarism), just as not changing them can imply a different author.
    – Buffy
    Dec 14, 2023 at 12:59
  • I added an interesting example to my answer. Dec 14, 2023 at 16:25
  • @yarchik, to whom are you addressing the comment? I think I say the opposite. Cite the paper as published. Or are you addressing the OP?
    – Buffy
    Dec 14, 2023 at 16:37
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I agree with the previous answers that the most important use of a reference is to find the work in question. So I would always begin with the name on the work itself. Nevertheless, I consider identifying the author to be a second worthwhile purpose, so, if the author is better known under a different name, I would also give that name, usually in parentheses and often with an equals sign. For example, "Jaime Ihoda (= Haim Judah)". As far as I can remember, no editor, referee, or copy-editor has objected to my using this format (admittedly a small sample, since the issue comes up only rarely).

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    Stylistically I think the equals sign is a bit odd outside of a mathematical context, you could perhaps replace it with née: originally or formerly called
    – Wolfie
    Dec 14, 2023 at 8:35
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    @Wolfie But né/née creates additional problems. It is gendered so you may not know which version to use, and it specifically refers to the birth name which may be different from either name you are giving (or the wrong way round). For example, you might want to cite "Mary Westmacott (= Agatha Christie)", but née would only be appropriate if followed by "Agatha Miller". Dec 14, 2023 at 11:37
  • @EspeciallyLime The 2nd definition "originally or formally called" which I quoted from Merriam Webster is not gendered or specifically referring to a birth name, that's just its most common usage. The Agatha Christie example is an alias, so "a.k.a" would work, it's also not what either of OP's examples were describing.
    – Wolfie
    Dec 14, 2023 at 11:48
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    @Wolfie née literally means "born" (feminine). Dec 14, 2023 at 12:07
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    I don't know what to say, other than its adopted English meaning being exactly what the referenced dictionary states it is
    – Wolfie
    Dec 14, 2023 at 12:25
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There is very rarely a need to do this. Cite the paper exactly as listed in the indices of record.

I'll add this example, written by an old late colleague, Bob Doty. He was a founder of the Society for Neuroscience, and the first (I think) president.

He wrote a retrospective on the work of Ivane S. Beritashvili https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030645220901121X

That name is actually a diminutive (or some other form of name variation). Much of Beritashvili's work was published under "Beritoff". Bob cited the works under the name they were published under.

(As an aside, Bob cited me in that, and it's one of the things I'm most proud of)

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When following your institution's referencing rules, are you citing the paper and the author is just a part of the citation or are you citing the author?

Maybe a bit cynical, but the answer is obvious – we are always referencing a paper as it was published and changing the paper's author in your citation (i.e. not writing the name(s) written on the paper) would result in referencing a paper that doesn't exist, which is – of course – wrong.

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    Hmmm. I guess I don't understand down votes on this.
    – Buffy
    Dec 14, 2023 at 13:03
  • In no way am I suggesting to change the names in the bibliography part (which should obviously stay identical to that in the paper being referenced), but rather in the sentences describing the history of previous research (e.g. "Smith\footnote{Formerly knwon as Jones.} defined the concept of (...) [1] and later proved that (...) [2].")
    – J..y B..y
    Dec 14, 2023 at 19:39
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I don't think there's any standard method, but I use an extension of the method the BibTeX documentation proposes for the related case of authors who sometimes spell out their forenames in full and sometimes use initials, thus:

  • Swirles[ Jeffreys], Bertha (1935), Proc. R. Soc. A 152(877), 625-649, doi:10.1098/rspa.1935.0211
  • [Swirles ]Jeffreys, Bertha (1965), Geophys. Res. Int. 10(2), 141-145, doi:10.1111/j.1365-246X.1965.tb03057.x

(If you're actually using BibTeX, you might have to use \lbrack and \rbrack for the square brackets to get it to parse the spaces and detect correctly what's a surname and what's a forename.)

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