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Order of Authorship for Academic Papers

Black Cat Blog:

Issues in academia, research, & publishing

Lydia Barza, PhD

Recently, I questioned a colleague who listed me as last author on a manuscript for a psychology journal. Surprised to see my name last on the list, having contributed to the work significantly, I considered it a demotion. I wrote to her and asked why I was listed last, while expressing that I would honor her decision if she felt the other authors had contributed to the work more than I. She replied that she moved me to last author precisely because she thought I had made the most significant contribution. Having come from a tradition of most-to-least authorship, I was confused.


Fairly listing author names is the most commonly occurring problem associated with co-authorship (Macfarlane, 2017). Variation in conventions between fields only add to the confusion. The increasingly interdisciplinary and cross-institutional nature of many research endeavors have highlighted inconsistencies in the conventions of academic authorship (Elliot et al., 2017).


In most studies, some authors make greater contributions to the project than others (i.e., the principal investigator(s) who often conceptualized the study versus an undergraduate research assistant who contributed to data collection only). But, what’s the standard for authorship order?


1, 2, 3, Don’t Forget Me