I was wondering, in the field of Computer Science, if there is a convention for acknowledging that author ordering for an academic paper is by alphabetical order, not contribution.

I know that in CS, alphabetical ordering, isn't all that common, however due to a lack of internal consensus, alphabetical ordering would be preferred in my situation.

Even in fields outside of CS, is there a convention for perhaps indicating in a footnote that the author list is alphabetical and NOT by contribution?

EDIT: To elaborate a bit more, after examining the question posted here, our field would likely be considered 'computer systems' (rather than theoretical computer science) where it is stated that the first author is usually the team lead. However in our situation, as I said, we are having internal disagreement over which person would be considered 'leader', and I was wondering what the best way to indicate equal contribution, or perhaps use alphabetical ordering to avoid the issue all together. We weren't really expecting to submit our work for publication (we're undergraduates), so this all has been rather unexpected.

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    Why would there be a footnote? A simple examination of the author list will indicate that it is alphabetical ordered. It is quite the convention in certain sub-fields in computer science.
    – Shion
    May 15, 2013 at 1:13
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    I've seen tons of math/theoretical CS papers with authors listed in alphabetical order, and I don't remember a single instance of mentioning how they ordered authors. It'd be strange to see such a footnote. May 15, 2013 at 1:14
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    @Shion I don't think simply looking at the author list is enough to tell how it's ordered. For example, how do you know it's not in oder of contribution (or whatever order) when the paper is written by "Fujiwara and Shion"? Technically, it's in alphabetical order. But just because it coincides with alphabetical order doesn't mean it's not in order of contribution. You don't know if the authors' intention was to list them in order of contribution or not, do you? May 15, 2013 at 1:33
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    possible duplicate of What does first authorship really mean?
    – Nobody
    May 15, 2013 at 1:46
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    I have seen such a footnote, but never in a theoretical CS paper. I have also seen a couple of TCS papers where the authors were randomly ordered (with an explanatory footnote) but that idea never caught on.
    – JeffE
    May 15, 2013 at 2:06

3 Answers 3


In theoretical CS, alphabetical order is the norm - see the relevant wikipedia entry.


We ended up making a note with the author's list that names were in alphabetical order an not indicative of contribution.


It depends on the subfield. Andrew Appel has a nice paper working this out for different conferences. (Hat tip Dylan Thurston on MO.)

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