Suppose my name is John Smith, and I am writing a new (single-author) paper which wants to cite a previous (single-author) work by myself.

What is the best style for this?

(1) As we showed in [1], the following condition applies ....

(2) As I showed in [1], the following condition applies ....

(3) As Smith showed in [1], the following condition applies ....

(4) As [1] shows, the following condition applies ....

I would prefer to avoid (4) because it is easier for the reader to follow a discussion where names (rather than numbers) are associated with certain concepts. This leads me to prefer (3), because a specific name is attached.

The problem with (1) is that it can be difficult for the reader to distinguish two meanings of "we" in the context of a (math) paper: first, there is the impersonal use of we as in "we define a group as a set with an operation + etc.", and second there is the use of we as in the actual human writing the paper.

The problem with (2) is that it draws attention to myself as opposed to my ideas, which is the opposite of what I'd like in a scholarly paper

Does it matter if this is in the middle of a paragraph citing a wide variety of authors, only some of whom happen to be equal to myself? For example, "As Jones showed in [2], ...., As Doe showed in [3], ...., As Smith (or we) or (I) showed in [1], .... "

  • 6
    You can also consider: "As the author showed..."
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Oct 18 '16 at 15:26
  • 1
    I've always used the "as we previously showed" construct; it seems more straightforward and clear. (If I had relevant solo papers I'd say "I" rather than "we'.) I don't know if there are specific guidelines, but clarity should be a general goal.
    – iayork
    Oct 18 '16 at 17:21
  • 1
    Other alternative: As shown in [1]. Passive forms sometimes get a bad rep, but they are not forbidden by the grammar police yet. Oct 19 '16 at 8:46

In my field of psychology, it is normal to treat any previous citation as if it was another person. In a sense it is the article that presents the point. This convention is also related to the use of double blind review in many journals.

So you'd just write:

Smith (2015) showed that ...


Smith (2015) conducted a study and found that ...

  • This is uncommon (or unheard of) in Theoretical Computer Science, from my experience.
    – einpoklum
    Nov 25 '17 at 12:38
  • @einpoklum How does theoretical computer science handle blind review? Nov 26 '17 at 9:59
  • By not pretending it's possible when you follow up your own work? Anyway, the limited number of reviews I've written have been single-blind, i.e. the submitter is known, the reviewers aren't (which is a situation I disapprove of actually).
    – einpoklum
    Nov 26 '17 at 10:38
  • The TCS reviews I've done have been single blind as well. Dec 26 '17 at 18:42

Your institution or publisher probably wants you to use a specific style guide. Most of what I've seen other places is consistent with the style guide here: Same citation format as for anyone else, typically inline, surname date and maybe page number; full citation also same format as anyone else.

  • 4
    I don't think that this is what the OP is asking for. It looks like his citation style is by numbers in square brackets.
    – Dirk
    Oct 19 '16 at 0:06

To me (3) sounds strange (i.e. to refer to yourself in the third person). Also (1) and (2) are rarely used and may sound odd to some people (to me only to a mild degree). I would certainly prefer (4).

I must admit that I do not see how names of persons would make it easier to me to follow the discussion. Names of concepts would certainly do (and often concepts are named after people you don't want to call your own method "Smith's method) but author names are quite irrelevant to me.

  • "Here" we don't exactly refer to ourselves in third person. We just quote (with quote marks) or paraphrase (without) and put the citation afterward in parens, hence, "Same citation format as for anyone else" (Groleau 2016). But again, the organization surely has a style guide.
    – WGroleau
    Oct 19 '16 at 0:15
  • "I do not see how names of persons would make it easier to me to follow the discussion" Seeing author names is often useful to me. Many times the author's name and surrounding context will be enough for me to recognize right off what the reference is without having to look at the bibliography, and other times knowing the author adds context to me (e.g. if "Mauldin", the paper probably doesn't involve high-powered set-theoretic notions and is likely something I could understand; if "Shelah", the result is probably something whose precise statement I wouldn't even understand). Oct 19 '16 at 14:09

I have sometimes seen (multiple) authors referring to themselves as "The current authors" and would like to suggest another option:

(5) As the current author showed in [1], the following condition applies ....

It is similar to option (2) but draws a little less attention to yourself, in my opinion.

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