I want to introduce the findings of a case study in my report, but it has four authors and I would like name them in when introducing it.

What would be the best way to do this, or is the below perfectly acceptable?

Andria A, Paul S, Derek B and Howard C provide an interesting insight in their case study...

  • 1
    First one, et al. (2014) provide an interesting insight in their case study...
    – enthu
    Nov 8, 2014 at 18:28
  • 1
    Or First one et al. [APDH14]
    – yo'
    Nov 8, 2014 at 18:30
  • 4
    More accurately: "Andria \emph{et al.}~\cite{APDH14}"
    – JeffE
    Nov 8, 2014 at 20:19
  • 2
    Even better, \textcite{APDH14} will just take care of everything according to the file style.
    – user9646
    Nov 9, 2014 at 19:57
  • 3
    @JeffE I'm pretty sure a specific markup language's code for something is pretty situational form of "more accurately".
    – Fomite
    Nov 9, 2015 at 3:29

4 Answers 4


How to handle this depends on your field. If your field has a notion of first author, then "[name of first author] et al." is appropriate. In fields like math that use alphabetical ordering, I'd strongly recommend naming all the authors, since "et al." could be read as diminishing the credit later authors get. I would not be happy if my name disappeared into an "et al."

The sentence "[last name of author 1], [last name of author 2], [last name of author 3] and [last name of author 4] provide an interesting insight in their case study..." sounds fine to me. (I.e., the same sentence as in the question, except that I assume "Andria A, Paul S, Derek B and Howard C" are just stand-ins for the actual names, and not actually a proposal for how to format the names.)

  • Sorry, but I think that "Andria A, Paul S, Derek B and Howard C provide..." is actually not that great, and I would certainly suggest it be reworded if I were editing a paper in which it appeared. Nov 8, 2014 at 20:56
  • 2
    "Provide an interesting insight" isn't how I'd phrase things, but I don't see anything wrong with it. Aside from that, is your objection to the list of names? First names and initials sound funny, but I'm assuming they are just a placeholder for real names (not that anyone is proposing actually referring to people that way). Nov 8, 2014 at 21:27
  • 1
    Having a long list of names (especially with initials, as you propose) is unusual, unwieldy, and inelegant - in my opinion. Nov 9, 2014 at 1:38
  • Don't know why you are being down voted. In math it would be frowned upon to put et al for any paper that was 4 authors or less. In other fields et al will be acceptable. Nov 9, 2015 at 5:56

This is completely dependent on your citation style. Two examples:

  • For APA, if there are only two authors, cite both each time; if there are between three and five, cite them all the first time then cite as "First et al., 2014" in subsequent citations; if there are six or more, use "et al." every time.

  • For IEEE, use of "et al." begins at three authors, and you use "et al.".

As you can see there are wild variations. Check which style you're supposed to use, and check how multiple authors should be cited with that style. As a general rule of thumb, maybe use "et al." when there are too many authors.

As another user pointed out it's also dependent on your field, and it's even possible that author names shouldn't be cited in every reference (just a numeric reference like [42]) -- I just checked a math journal at random and this was like that.

PS: If you're writing something in LaTeX and are using biblatex, I want to advertise the commands \textcite, \parencite and \footcite. They are able to automate most of this (for example with the APA style, they correctly detect which citation is the first).

  • 3
    I don't read this as a question about citation style, but rather about how to name/talk about authors independently of the formal reference to the bibliography. I.e., even if your citation style is "Smith et al. 2014", you could write something like "Smith, Chen, and Jones discovered that blah blah blah (Smith et al. 2014)", where only the latter part is the citation of the specific paper as specified by the citation style. Nov 9, 2014 at 21:01
  • @AnonymousMathematician Without other guidelines, the citation style is as good as anything else to go by. Besides, the citation is supposed to be able to be used as a subject, as far as I'm aware, so that you could write "(Smith et al., 2014) discovered that blablabla".
    – user9646
    Nov 10, 2014 at 7:32

For more than two authors, it's generally the norm to say something like "As Andria, et al. (2014) discuss, ..."

  • 5
    it's not good style to start a sentence with name(s) of author(s) — What is this I don't even
    – JeffE
    Nov 8, 2014 at 20:20

The question is not about citation, as with a works cited page, but whether or not it is appropriate to introduce all authors when first stating the title of the work. ie "In such and such article by author A, B, C, and D...." I believe the question is: Must all authors A-D be noted or is it acceptable with less? In this case I'd say yes it is just fine as is.

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