I'm currently writing my PhD dissertation and I need to fill out the statement of declaration page. This page declares my contribution to my published papers, which are coauthored with my supervisor and a postdoc. I am the first author of those papers, but I'm in the field of high-energy physics theory so the naming convention in those papers is alphabetical. There is no required format from my university regarding this page.

I'm wondering if it is ok to mention that the said people coauthored those papers but I am the first author. I'm asking this question since I do not want to write something that may look awkward or proud in a sense, that would appear to be weird. Does anyone know if it is normal to declare yourself as the first author on the declaration page?

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    Congrats on almost finishing your PhD! Ask your supervisor or trusted committee member. They will know the norms and policies of your department and university more than a bunch of strangers on the web. I'd guess and say there is a 90% chance it doesn't matter how you do this, but a small chance you might ruffle the feathers of some university official if you do it wrong. Commented Jun 20 at 12:15
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    @RichardErickson Thanks for the praise! My supervisor is quite indifferent about this since this is quite minor and I'm just a lowly PhD student compared to them who are dealing with a lot of stuff. I know this is a minor thing but I still want to write my dissertation as properly as possible and also indicate clearly where I am as a contributor knowing that fields that publish their names in alphabetical order usually face prejudice in some context. So even in this minor thing, I would like to indicate it.
    – mathemania
    Commented Jun 20 at 12:35
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    @mathemania Nevertheless, the point is maybe your university has some rules for this page that we don't know; or maybe it's normal in your field/department/group to be really effusive in thanking; or maybe you're supposed to take ownership for everything. Commented Jun 20 at 14:43
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    @AzorAhai-him-. Exactly. My "10%" guesstimate covers some university rule that might either delay completion, or under some bizarre rules (usually with a cruel academic administrator) prevent graduation because the OP didn't properly claim their work. Commented Jun 20 at 15:12

3 Answers 3


In terms of your statement of contribution, what is important is specifically what you did, not where you come in the authorship rankings. "I did the calculations that lead to equations 1,3,6 and 10-15; I generated the data behind figures 1A,D, all of figures 2 and 3 and the last panel of figure 4; I plotted all figures".

You can note where you come in the priority order if you wish - I don't suspect anyone will think worse of you for it, it will probably just be ignored though.

I'm a little unclear what you mean by being first author. If papers in your field are arranged alphabetically, then being the first listed author has no meaning, and stateing that you are the first author is meaningless.

If you mean not that your name is the first listed author, but that you are the "main" or "primary" or "senior" author, then say that, not first-author.

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    In high-energy physics, the authorship convention in papers is listed alphabetically, but it is still known within the group who is the "primary" author. Since I'm writing a dissertation and I know that it "might" be read by someone who is not exactly in my specific subfield but probably still within the wider reach of the field, stating that I'm the primary author may remove the confusion when they later correlate my dissertation to my papers. Your last statement is a good advice btw.
    – mathemania
    Commented Jun 20 at 10:22
  • @mathemania Here's one of my authorship statement from my thesis: "In this case I again planned the experiments with input from M. K., S. S. and D. M., and carried them out. The analysis of experimental results was mine (including Figures 2 and 3), as was the first draft with the exception of the theoretical treatment of the thermal conductivity (J. A. C.), and the final version with the support of the co-authors." You can probably go stronger than this example where I was lead author, and first in the list because in semiconductor physics that's how we do it.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 21 at 7:46
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    @IanSudbery I wouldn't use "senior" author, as academic seniority is at least as likely an interpretation. "Main" (as you suggest) or "lead" would be better.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 21 at 7:48

Can you look in other recent PhD theses from other labs? Or ask the PI from a lab in the same department? You really do need a local person to advise you here.


As an inspiration what kind of contributions are relevant, a look at the CRediT taxonomy might be helpful. It defines 14 contributor roles for research outputs. CRediT statements can be found in quite a lot publications these days, I would say they are rather well-known and sort of standard. They are typically not terribly specific, so for a dissertation you may want to be more precise, like Ian Sudbury's answer explains.

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