My advisor told me to write a blog post, so I wrote a draft of it. He didn't like it, so he told me to write another draft. He didn't like that one either, so he wrote a third draft himself, which contained none of the words from the previous two drafts. He listed me as the sole author of the blog post and has been going around telling everyone I wrote it, even though he wrote the entire thing.

He has also done this with actual research papers (he listed me as the first author even though he wrote the whole thing -- I did make all the figures though).

Is this normal advisor behavior? It makes me feel a bit weird because I didn't actually write it.

  • 10
    On a paper, the first author is not necessarily the one who wrote the actual words.
    – ff524
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 21:10
  • 1
    I think you will find this answer to another question helpful, particularly the bulleted list of things that might be considered when assigning first author.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 22:00
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    @user62583 Did the advisor use the general ideas/points/etc — even if he did not use any of the actual words? The main contribution is usually the idea, not the verbatim content. This being said, he should appear as an author — esp. on the blog posting. If you are the sole author, people expect you to have actually written it. (BTW, do you agree with the content? That's another can of worms ...) Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 9:56
  • Much better than not getting any correction on your draft and listening that you are a bad writer and don't know how to write properly. Commented Jul 9, 2023 at 16:47

3 Answers 3


Probably the conclusion that you don't deserve credit is not totally justified. I am pretty sure that the final result contains at least some words from your drafts. On a more serious side, it may well be that professor could never have written the final result without having read your drafts. You know, the first sentence is the hardest, and professors also know how to procrastinate. But they usually often know ways around it! Having somebody else to start the writing process, and giving this guy a deadline (and you know he will make the deadline) and then starting from there is one great way to get started on time.

Actually, in previous days my professor asked me quite often to draft something for him (emails, abstracts, reports,…), but when he got my draft and started writing himself, most of my draft disappeared as well. In fact he even told me in advance, that this will happen, but having some draft helped him to get going.

Writing paper together with an advanced researcher often feels the same. I echo the other answers, that you can learn a lot from carefully studying the edits. And remember that writing the words in one thing, but getting results, sharpening formulations (not sentences) and structuring text is another thing. So just accept that he thinks, that you deserve first-authorship and be happy.


For papers, this division of labor is a little unusual, but not outside the realm of normal practice. First author position is normally given to the person who is the lead on the project, not necessarily the person who actually contributed the most words to the manuscript. PIs often have a lot of experience with writing papers -- in particular, framing the narrative of a particular study so that the most innovative/interesting features of the work are highlighted, and so that the paper gets noticed by the intended audience. Also, sometimes another author (e.g., second author) will take the lead in writing up work that, for example, another student was close to finishing but did not complete before graduation.

Not using any of your words is a more extreme position, and is definitely on the "micromanaging" end of the spectrum, but I don't think it's unheard of.

As far as blog posts go, though, while I don't have a lot of personal experience in this area, a "ghost-writing" arrangement feels strange to me. I would not feel comfortable listing a blog post I didn't write on my CV, for instance. I think the difference is that generally, in blogging -- in contrast to journal articles -- the text is the whole point.

I can maybe see this happening if the blog post was a description of a side project I performed and for which I made figures or illustrations -- but even then I'd expect joint credit in the byline, not sole credit. I guess it's possible there are different conventions in your field, though.

One larger point that concerns me is that instead of really teaching you to write for a research audience, your advisor is just taking the wheel. That's an important skill to learn in grad school in and of itself. If your advisor isn't willing to take the time to teach you this skill, I would try to find an additional mentor who can.


Yes this happens occasionally and this is a sign of a supervisor that is involved with your PhD. This is good for you. The point of it is for you to read the texts and learn from the differences between your drafts and his/hers corrections/final text. This is a great opportunity for you to learn how to improve your scientific writing skills. Take advantage of this to improve.

If this continues while you write decent texts (you might think you do but you might not, don't worry its common), then this might be signs of a controlling supervisor that wants the publication with his/hers name exactly as he wants it. This causes irritation some time. But again take advantage and learn! Sure you can gain a lot by comparing your drafts with the final text.

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