If one wanted to cite an article where the listed author is a pseudonym and it is well-known that the name is a pseudonym then which name ought one use?

Normally I would just use the name listed on the paper, however there is the following situation that made me wonder: there is a paper by one Maurizio Boyarsky which is a pseudonym of one Bernard Dwork. It is somewhat 'well-known' that this is a pseudonym as it is listed in the Wikipedia article and in the MathSciNet review of the paper. However, in a certain textbook there is the line

On the other hand, Dwork in [Bo]...

and the reference at the end of the book corresponding to [Bo] is the paper of Boyarsky.

So it made me wonder, should I follow the example in the textbook or not?

EDIT: to clarify, I am not debating the entry in the bibliography, I am debating whether one should write "On the other hand, Dwork in [Bo]" or "On the other hand, Boyarsky in [Bo]".

  • 8
    Why not write it out to clarify? "On the other hand, Dwork, writing under the pseudonym Boyarsky in [Bo], found that..." Sep 8, 2016 at 13:20
  • Are you trying to connect the pseudonymous paper author with the author under their "real" name? That is, are you doing something like contrasting the results by Dwork in [Bo] and Dwork in [Dw]? Or invoking the "real life" authority/reputation of Dwork? If so, take the approach @NateEldredge suggests - explicitly call out the correspondence to make it clear to readers. However, if you're just using the name to make the grammar work, don't worry about it. You might even re-phrase things (passive voice, etc.) so you don't have to use their name at all.
    – R.M.
    Sep 8, 2016 at 15:18
  • James P. Tiptree; O'Henry; Herge; John Le Carre -- why would you even consider diggin up the true names of folks like this? Sep 8, 2016 at 19:46
  • @CarlWitthoft: if they'd published most of their careers under their "true" names and a couple of works under their pseudonyms, like Dwork did with the name Boyarsky, then you might consider it a matter of interest to the reader that the paper you're talking about was written by an author they know. Which doesn't affect correct citation style, but it's a reason to consider digging it up. Sep 8, 2016 at 22:46
  • 1
    ... so for example if you're writing about the content of the mathematics then "Nicholas Bourbaki" is fine as a reference. If you're writing about André Weil then something he wrote as Bourbaki might provide an insight into his thinking or his methods. Then it would be right to relate that to his real name as well. Or to analyse which bits of Bourbaki were written by him or by others, what collaborations, all that junk. Sep 8, 2016 at 22:55

4 Answers 4


Always use the name that is used on the article/book you are referring to.

If someone searches for an article referred to as being written by Dwork, but the name on the article is Boyarsky it will only cause confusion about whether this is the article they are looking for.

Regarding the pseudonym: I would not mention it at all. It is up to the author when or where they reveal that they use a pseudonym. Even when it is commonly known I would still not do this, except when you have explicit permission from the user of the pseudonym. This way you avoid spreading awareness of the use of the pseudonym in a situation where the user may not desire this. One exception could be when there is suspicion of the pseudonym being used with ill intent. Generally though I think it is good to be cautious about such revelations.

  • 9
    Regarding the pseudonym: I would not mention it at all. In this situation, the author is dead, and the pseudonym is well known. I think your advice is correct in the case that you have confidential knowledge of the pseudonym. In this case, if you talk about these two names as if they are separate people, it will be misleading to those who are unaware of the pseudonym, and you may appear lacking in knowledge to those who are aware of it. I think an acknowledgment is appropriate.
    – MJeffryes
    Sep 8, 2016 at 12:48
  • 3
    Good point! Though even then I would only mention it if it is valuable in the context. Most of the time it does not matter who wrote it, but rather what they wrote.
    – J. Doe
    Sep 8, 2016 at 13:27

Given that you've mentioned the author is deceased, so you're not risking harming them in some way by connecting them to something they didn't wish to be connected to, I would list both the pseudonym and the author's real name.

If someone is reading your work and is interested in following the trail of literature you've laid out (in my research I frequently assemble lists of relevant papers by following the papers cited in others I'm referencing, and I think that's common), then having both names may be very useful. Particularly if this author has published things under both names, or other authors citing him have mixed using the pseudonym and his real name. For example, what if criticisms or support of his work address him in both ways at times? Only giving one or the other may conceal some other relevant papers or information from the reader.

If the author were still alive though, I would error on the side of respecting their anonymous wishes unless given permission otherwise.

  • " so you're not risking harming them" -- but what about his daughters, both called Dwork and both still alive. Maybe he feared that the sins of the Boyarsky material would be visited on them ;-) Sep 8, 2016 at 22:49

People have been writing phrases like "On the other hand, Bourbaki [1, Chap. x, Thm. y] ..." despite knowing that Bourbaki is a pseudonym. Do the same with Boyarsky or just drop the name: "On the other hand, Boyarsky in [Bo] ..." or "On the other hand, [Bo] ...", since you want to give credit to the paper or to the Researcher, not to the author personally.

If they wanted to give credit to actual members as persons, they made a footnote clarifying who Bourbaki was. Produce a similar footnote if you want to give credit to Dwork as a Person: "On the other hand, [Bo] \footnote{Maurizio Boyarsky is a pseudonym under which Bernard Dwork published.} ...", or move this note text to a section like "History of development", if you have one.

The above shows what is done in reality. Now let us turn to what should (not) be done.

By default, it is ethical only to give credit to a Researcher in scientific papers. You may give a credit to a Person if you are asked for that by the person. If the person did not ask you to give him/her credit, and you don't care, don't give credit to the Person. If the person did not ask you to give him/her credit, but you still do wish to do that for whatever reason, ask the person, and, if he/she is dead, ask the descendants or relatives. If there are none or you cannot find any, an ethic way would be to adopt a similar viewpoint as in copyright laws: do whatever you wish with the pseudonym after 70 years after the person's death, but do not disclose the identity before that.


If the pseudonym is not listed in that book and the author refers to [Bo] as "Dwork" that would cause a lot of confusion, in my opinion. Personally, I'd go with a consistent naming of the author, be it pseudonym or real name. The choice which name you choose depends on which name is better known or listed on the source. So it should be either

On the other hand, Dwork in [Dw] ...


On the other hand, Boyarsky in [Bo] ...

to avoid any confusion.

  • 9
    Do not do the first option. If the book is published under the name Boyarsky, list it under Boyarski in the References. Writing any other name there is plain wrong and makes the book impossible to find in databases.
    – Dirk
    Sep 8, 2016 at 15:45
  • 1
    What if one use numeric references in bibliography? Dwork [1] and Boyarsky [1] will look exactly the same...
    – Crowley
    Sep 8, 2016 at 16:29
  • 1
    @Dirk I said the choice depends on what the author is called in the source article. Since it wasn't clear to me from OPs post, I said it depends on that. That means option 1 is only viable if Dwork is listed as author.
    – Ian
    Sep 9, 2016 at 7:19

You must log in to answer this question.

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