I am a little bit confused regarding the best way to attribute a research paper in my thesis. Example:

  • " The work in [1] proposed a new method for ..."
  • " John et al.[1] proposed a new method for ..."

Also, when I have the following context:

  • " our method results outperforms the results in [1] ... "
  • " our method results outperforms the results provided by John et al. [1]"

Sometimes, due to space limitation, I can not mention the names of the authors every time which pushes me to use the paper only (like examples 1 and 3). Also, I think it is unnecessary redundancy to mention the authors every time.

My question is, is that OK? should I mention the authors of the work every time? Are examples 1 and 3 accepted or weak?

  • 1
    To me all these examples look OK with the only remark that in Example 3 I'd say "results of [1]" rather than "results in [1]" but it's just grammar anyway. Aug 7, 2014 at 20:46
  • 3
    I have seen both used widely. Personally, I find the second and fourth styles make for more coherent reading, since I don't have to constantly flip to the references to look up numbers.
    – Tim
    Aug 7, 2014 at 20:56

1 Answer 1


There may be slight differences between fields (I am in the chem-phys-mat. sci triangle), but the short answer is no, you do not need to explicitly name the authors.

Stylistically, the "the work in [1] proposed" sounds rather forced and exactly as long as "Smith et al.[1] proposed". Note I am not a native speaker, so I have no clue what I am talking about. On the other hand I would definitely would leave the name out if I am talking about the same work over and over. Also, if you structure your statements like "This problem has been approached using this [1] and this methods [2]", giving the name is actually more awkward than leaving out.

I think it also improves readability. Compare "our method outperforms the name-of-the-method method [1]" with your examples (name-of-the-method: you explicitly name what is the main difference). Assuming that the reader do not know the reference list by heart, this kind of reference is more explicit and more informative than the other two.

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