In citing a paper by myself and others in my thesis, suppose my surname is A and that I have a paper jointly with B and C. I want to cite it, and normally, I would write

A, B, and C showed that this can be done [ABC15].

However, in my thesis, it feels more natural to say

Together with B and C, we showed that this can be done [ABC15].

Which is better? Are there better options?

In other words, should I pretend that A is some random dude when it is in fact the author of the thesis the reader is currently reading?

For context: This is a thesis in theoretical computer science/algorithmic graph theory/parameterized algorithms/complexity. I prefer to use "we" as is usual in mathematical texts.

  • I have edited your comment in the question. It is better to add any clarification in the question itself than in comments that can get lost.
    – Davidmh
    Sep 21, 2015 at 9:34
  • 1
    @A.Klomp But then what happens if there is another relevant paper by A, D, and E? Do you also refer to the authors as "we"?
    – Mangara
    Sep 21, 2015 at 13:14
  • @A.Klomp I am trying to avoid using a citation reference as a word.
    – Pål GD
    Sep 21, 2015 at 15:23
  • @A. Klomp: In fields where author ordering is alphabetical (like mathematics, including theoretical computer science), it is considered by many to be a very bad practice to list some but not all authors' names. This is a recipe for alienating someone for no good reason. Sep 21, 2015 at 21:08
  • 2
    So you want to use "we" as in you and your supporting network (supervisors etc.) and you want to mention B and C by name, and you don't want to have citation as a word. I'd go for the second option. The only slight variation without "we", that I can think of is something like "Together (/In collaboration) with B and C, it was shown that this can be done [ABC15]." Sep 22, 2015 at 7:53

3 Answers 3


Personally I feel (and I know that there are many who might disagree) that it is perfectly fine to use 'I' and 'we' here. I think that obsessively sticking to passive voice makes papers and theses less readable. After all, you did do the work. Why hide behind the passive voice? My suggestion would be to go with option 2:

Together with B and C, we showed that this can be done [ABC15].

  • 1
    See also the answer of this question on the use of "we" and "I" in mathematical text. Sep 22, 2015 at 13:25

"I" and "We" are not very common in paper referencing, usually the best solution is using a passive form, i.e, "As was shown at [2]" or "As the authors have shown at [2]" or "In [2] the authors and others showed that...".


If all you are doing is asserting that "X can be done", then it is appropriate to cite your paper as if it was any other, using a variation of first pattern:

[ABC15] demonstrated the feasibility of this method.

Notice that this is using an active voice.

If, instead, you wanted to build on an argument that you first and fully expressed in the previous article, then you would be justified using personal pronouns:

As I have argued elsewhere [ABC15], the feasibility of this method can be verified experimentally.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .