I want to know what the best option is for adjusting an article in prep under the following circumstances:

I've been working on this new model of a natural system for a while. I established the theoretical basis for it, and showed that it is in agreement with empirical evidence. I have a second draft at this point.

Then I find one of the folks I was already citing was also clearly thinking about the same exact things for awhile. Their paper is published, and they did an awesome job. Darn! But no hard feelings.

However I still plan to publish my paper because
1) They did not provide the theoretical basis, so we have different justifications for the model
2) My model comparisons to the data point out different things (but together my paper and their paper both confirm the model)

What are the standard adjustments that can be made when this happens? Is it best to:
1) Devote a couple sentences to this
2) Devote an entire paragraph (or more?) comparing and contrasting our models and conclusions
3) Simply emphasize that my work is now an extension of their work?

  • 1
    Would people believe you if you claimed you worked on this independently? Is there anything you need to do within the next several days or weeks, given the norms of your field (and this does differ from field to field), to establish that you did your work independently? (Of course you still acknowledge the prior publication of the other paper in any case.) Jul 26, 2017 at 22:19
  • @AlexanderWoo Well honestly I'm not sure how I could prove that. Additionally, the first author of the paper is an editor at the journal I was planning to submit to...! I suppose that really I'm curious as to how much is too much acknowledgement or discussion of their work. I don't want to diss them, and I don't want it to read like I'm just doing clean up work either.
    – Z W
    Jul 26, 2017 at 22:43
  • Somewhat related, though your question is a lot more specific and you've already followed most of the advice contained there: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/89612/…
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 26, 2017 at 22:53
  • I've seen papers stating something like "during the preparation of our manuscript, Smith et al. published a paper demonstrating similar results". However this is more common when the paper is already in review and then this sentence is added in a revision.
    – Bitwise
    Jul 27, 2017 at 11:57
  • "We recently learned that similar results were obtained independently by Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe [DCH17]." Then explain the differences (if any), advantages of your specific formulation (if any), and advantages of their specific formulation (if any). But as Bitwsise suggests, do it fast.
    – JeffE
    Jul 27, 2017 at 19:37

4 Answers 4


It seems you have answered yourself: you found different contributions between your paper and the other one. It's up to you to decide if those differences constitute publishable material and are worth submitting or not really.

The best recipe on how to handle it is, as usual, honesty. You can simply say something like "our findings are in good agreement with recent research...", "recent research came to the same conclusion using a different model...", cite the other paper, compare both and justify why your contributions are important.

This approach is perfectly common in research. Not everything is about novelty.

The reviewers will give you feedback that will provide some clarity and help you how to proceed from there.


Picture what your manuscript would have looked like if this other paper had been published two years ago, and you had known about it all along. In an ideal world, this is what you should write - it doesn't make a difference whether the paper you are citing is two days or two years old.

In practice, given that you have already put a lot of work into this manuscript, you may want to compromise a bit rather than completely re-write your paper from scratch. But it's definitely important to follow your option (2) and devote a decent chunk of discussion comparing your two approaches.


I was in this situation. I included a final paragraph, before the conclusions such as:

"The application of x offers exciting opportunities, and indeed another paper on this topic was published during the preparation of this manuscript."

Then go talk about their results and how yours varies/is better.


Your paper went from an original contribution to replication, but since you claim that you have a "theoretical" contribution, why not polish that part of your manuscript and submit it as a theoretical contribution? There might be specialized journals in your field that publish such papers. You can incorporate your own empirical contribution as an example of the idea and discuss the other paper as supporting literature.

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