I read somehere in this stack-exchange that its best to not make strong statements (such as stating the previous method is completely wrong) etc. In my paper, I thought that stating this the model I am presenting is the first model for this type of device would bolster the chances of publication. It is true that there hasn’t been any model for this type of device, atleast not to my knowledge and extensive search.

But is claiming that this is the first model too strong a statement? Is this looked down upon in academic publications?

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    If you must use that type of language, at the very least preface it with "to the best of our knowledge". – E.P. Nov 20 '16 at 23:46
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    Also, keep in mind that your journal may ban that sort of language, though this will vary case-by-case. For example, American Physical Society journals forbid this. – E.P. Nov 20 '16 at 23:51
  • It could be.. i actually searched for the word "first" in the journal publications. Out of 7 publication 1 of them did state something "it was the first time" .. – alpha_989 Nov 21 '16 at 3:57
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    But you may want to put the milder formulation into the cover letter, regardless of whether it is permitted in the actual text of the paper. – The Vee Nov 21 '16 at 14:11
  • @TheVee.. Will do... – alpha_989 Nov 21 '16 at 17:04

In 1988, in their paper Quantum Hall effect devices as circuit elements, Ricketts and Kemeny presented a first circuit model for quantum Hall effect devices [1].

Here is how the model is presented in the abstract:

The electrical behaviour of a quantum Hall effect device is described in terms of an equivalent circuit. This circuit is able to model the principal electrical characteristics of an ungated Hall bridge device.

In the Introduction:

In this paper we describe the behaviour of a QHE device in terms of an equivalent circuit.

And in the Conclusions:

An equivalent circuit has been presented that can represent the DC electrical behaviour of a Hall bridge device under QHE conditions.

This is just a random example, but I think that it aptly shows the right way to present a first model: review what is known about that device and its behaviour, so that it becomes evident that, to your knowledge, there isn't any model of that kind currently available; tell the reader what kind of model you are going to describe and what phenomena it can model.

Then, let the reader decide if it's really a first one.

[1] B. W. Ricketts and P. C. Kemeny, J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys., 21, 483, 1988.

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    Good points. If the reader discovers that it is indeed a first, then it is an "Eureka" moment. If he simply reads about it in the first paragraph, then it is "Wow, this guy is pretty egotistical", even though it is the same paper... – Nelson Nov 21 '16 at 1:29
  • Thank you. I combined your approach of stating the current literature and combined it with a weaker statement "To the best of our knowledge...". I presented the "To the best of our knowledge.." statement towards in the conclusions rather than at the beginning, just so the reader has time to read and see whether it is indeed the first model so far. – alpha_989 Nov 21 '16 at 17:03

You can say, "to the best of our knowledge after reviewing the literature, this is the first model of its type."

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    In my (engineering) subfield, the disclaimer "after reviewing the literature" is assumed, and thus is best to omit. – Mad Jack Nov 21 '16 at 13:29
  • Thanks.. I used this statement without the "after reviewing the literature" in the conclusions section rather than at the beginning of the paper.. – alpha_989 Nov 21 '16 at 17:03
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    "after reviewing the literature" is redundant -- how else would you come to the belief that this is the first model? – David Richerby Nov 21 '16 at 23:32
  • @DavidRicherby - natural languages are redundant. – Davor Nov 22 '16 at 13:21
  • @Davor So? The redundancy comes from the concept that the writer is expressing, not the language that they chose to express it in. – David Richerby Nov 22 '16 at 13:38

Instead of saying "this is the first model", ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Why is this model useful?
  2. What is the limitation of not having such a model?

I assume you have valid reasons for both questions, otherwise this model should not be published at all. Then say something like:

Previous work on analysing this device failed to provide a sound guarantee on some property for lack of a formal model... To address this problem, we present a model for this device, which allows us to express the property A....

The novelty is clear, if it is the case, without saying it is the first.


A model is a thing that is used to describe and predict the behaviour of a system. If it is worth creating then there is a thing that it aims to describe which has value and which others would find useful. It therefore stands to reason that others have done work in the field where this model would have utility and it should also stand to reason that their efforts in making other types of progress in this field have been frustrated by the lack of a model of this sort.

What is far better is to summarize efforts in the field to date - it's fine to include citations of work which are beyond the scope of the model itself and rather focus on the types of work that would use, or could use, the model you are presenting. Include citations that demonstrate the state of the art and it should be clear that the methods currently in use by others leave a gap in descriptive, predictive, or functional capability that could be serviced by the model you are presenting.

By telling the story this way, you not only make it clear that you are presenting something novel, you also frame the context in a way that demonstrates why it is important. This also keeps the focus on the topic itself rather than on irrelevancy and trivia. "I'm first!" is a side effect - let others make that observation and focus on the work.


As the other answers here attest, it's not universally looked down upon, but there are better ways to say it.

For example, instead of simply saying that it's the first of its kind, explicitly contrast it with the other popular models. This lets the reader know that your model is different while you tell them why they should care about this fact.

  • That’s a good point. This is one of the reasons why I am wondering whether using the word first is appropriate or not. It seems to me that all papers have to be the first of its kind, even though it builds upon another paper, you can claim to be the first person to do that. So it begs the question of how much differentiated you have to be from the previous studies to be able to use the word “first”? Or perhaps I am overthinking this.  For now, I am just going with the “To the best of our knowledge, strategy”, otherwise I will have to rewrite some sections again.. – alpha_989 Nov 22 '16 at 17:51

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