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I wonder if there are any arguments for or against the use of "some of us" in a research paper. In a paper by "(myself), S. E. Cond, and A. U. Thor" about an "Update on previous research", I wonder if it would be OK to write

Some of us have previously shown that ... [1].

[1] (myself), S. Other, and A. U. Thor. Previous Research. Fancy J.

I usually write "we" to speak about the set of authors of the current manuscript, so I don't see any problem myself. But there may be, so: are there any rules I should follow?

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    I have seen many papers where the authors had absolutely no problem saying something like "X, Y and Z [10] showed that" or "see A (2009)" where A, X, Y and Z were the authors themselves. I get a sense of surreality when I read that, but I have seen it (in Computer Science) often enough to be unsurprised - I figure they're just letting TeX+whatever bibliography stuff they use do it automatically. One example I saw just today, from 2002: stroustrup.com/sibling_rivalry.pdf (look for instances of "Stroustup" in the paper). – muru Jun 27 '16 at 22:30
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    @muru: This is also in part due to the double blind review process. Using "We have shown" will result in an automatic rejection of the paper. So, I guess the authors develop a habit of never using "we have shown" – Aditya Jun 27 '16 at 23:36
  • @Aditya how common are double-blind reviews? I've only reviewed one paper but it included author bios and full-page photographs for some reason. – kibibu Jun 28 '16 at 0:17
  • @muru if this was an answer I'd have upvoted it :) – kibibu Jun 28 '16 at 0:18
  • @kibibu: Depends on the area. Most top conferences in AI/ML (NIPS, AAAI, ICML) have double blind review process – Aditya Jun 28 '16 at 1:25
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This probably depends on the area of research, but in mathematics, the sciences, or engineering, "A subset of the authors..." might be better. "Some of us..." is a little informal for my tastes.

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    I find it a bit odd to consider the authors as a set, though mathematicians might like it: I'd find "some of the authors" more natural. – Massimo Ortolano Jun 27 '16 at 19:34
  • @MassimoOrtolano, "some of the authors..." works better for me than "some of us...," but both (and mine) leave me thinking about which ones more than I'd like. – Bill Barth Jun 27 '16 at 21:49
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    Why not just make explicit the number of authors? E.g. "One of the authors (Author A) wrote..." or "Two of the authors (Authors A and B)..." etc. – tkr Jun 27 '16 at 22:23
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    @MassimoOrtolano Even as a theoretical computer scientist (i.e., basically a mathematician), I find "a subset of the authors" jarring. As you say, "Some of the authors" is natural. – David Richerby Jul 26 '16 at 9:08
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Depending on your field and publisher, there might be a tendency to reduce the overly impersonal nature of scientific publication.

If this tendency exists and is encourages by the publisher, then "some of us" is even recommended.

If not, then stick with "part of the authors" maybe try "some of the authors" if you try to make the scientific writing style less impersonal but still want to stay within the boundaries.

  • Nice idea. Do you have any example of a publication has this "tendency to reduce the overly impersonal nature of scientific publication"? I am not aware of any in my field, at least none that would say so explicitly. – bers Jun 28 '16 at 17:26
  • Yes, I am aware of what personal/impersonal style is :) I was wondering about <strike>publications</strike> journals/publishers who encourage its use. It seems that the 6th edition of the APA style has dropped the recommendation of avoiding the impersonal style, at least: blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2009/09/… – bers Jun 29 '16 at 19:21
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Other questions have addressed formatting styles, but I want to address whether saying "some of us" is ever necessary. There's nuances to writing about work previously done by some co-authors, such as citing their names "X, Y, and Z suggested A [1]", cited in a paper by W, X, Y, and Z is certainly proper, if "surreal".

But what does it matter? If someone wants to know what the previous work was, they'll look at the citation. Why refer to the people who did it? Why note say "previous research has shown that A causes B [1]" doesn't say "MY previous research" but it isn't a necessarily weaker statement. If someone seeks out the reference, they'll know it's you and some of your co-authors. It also doesn't loudly point towards Author W as the only guy who wasn't on the cited publication.

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Adding to @50k4's answer, IEEE is an example of a publisher that encourages both active voice and first-person style, as mentioned in their How to Write for Technical Periodicals & Conferences guidelines.

Section 7, Improving and Revising, reads:

Avoid the passive voice, in which the subject is acted upon. In the active voice, the subject performs the action. “It was hypothesized,” is passive; “We hypothesized,” is active. The active voice is more interesting and less ambiguous. Edit passive sentences to active sentences as much as possible.

and

Write in the first person (“I,” “we”) to make it clear who has done the work and the writing. It is particularly helpful when you are comparing your work to someone else’s work [3].

This does not answer whether "some of us" is a good formulation, but it shows that "we" is certainly OK to write.

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The usual construction I have seen is "The first author..." or "The first and third authors...". This is compatible with the (unfortunate, but standard) rule of writing in the third voice, and with double blind refereeing, but gives more information.

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