In my field it is common to have shared first authorship for authors who “contributed equally to the work” (as shared first authorship is usually defined). The “proper” way of citing publications with shared first authors is to mention all first authors (not just the first first one1).

Now, normally the citation style for authordate-like formats is along the lines of:

Doe, Jane et al. (1995), “Title”. In: Journal

Whereby the subsequent authors are elided2. However, with shared first authors, the citation should look like this:

Jane Doe, Fred Foo et al. (1995), “Title”. In: Journal

I have two (related) questions concerning this:

  1. How do I accomplish this citation style in LaTeX using BibLaTeX?
  2. How do I even mark shared first authors in the source *.bib file?

The second question is a corollary of the first, since it is my understanding that in a “normal” *.bib file the author field is simply an ordered list, with no means of indicating contribution.

I’m particularly interested in how to accomplish this for biblatexauthoryear style; however, I’m also interested in a more general solution with full author lists (in which joint first authors could e.g. be marked by an asterisk).

1 And this is actually quite important, although disappointingly few publications get it right, because if not done, it skews authorship for the purpose of text mining, and unfairly withholds the equal contributions of the co-first authors.

2 Unless there are very few (e.g. < 3), in which case it’s common to cite them all.

  • 1
    I’m aware of tex.stackexchange.com/q/126864/42, which looks a lot like a duplicate but that was (rightly) closed as “unclear”. I contemplated editing the existing question, but honestly I’m not sure if the OP actually did have this in mind. Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 18:29
  • The term "to mention all first authors (not just the first first one)" is a bit confusing. What, essentially, is the difference between a "first author" and a "premier auteur" (other than, of course, the latter being a French language term)? What should be done if there are publications for which the first and second (or "premier"?) author are both shared in common -- should the third author be mentioned explicitly in such cases?
    – Mico
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 18:58
  • @Mico They are two distinct people. Let me use different example names to make this clearer … I don’t understand the second question in your comment, but I suspect it’s a consequence of my unclear example. Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 19:05
  • 1
    In reference lists, the need to disambiguate comes from whether to list the names of the authors again, or to use a long dash (often approx. 3em or so in length) when the authors are 'the same'. In citations (and reference lists), it has implications for whether to start using (say) 2006a and 2006b, and so on: when the authors are not the same, then each would just be 2006. Generally speaking, it is good to keep in mind what happens in extreme cases when it comes to bibliographies in order to avoid mediocre, ad hoc solutions that will fail for the next person. (Not that that's your goal!)
    – jon
    Commented Jan 18, 2015 at 23:23
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    Maybe what you want is to put the "primary" authors into the author field and have a new name field, say secondaryauthors that contains the secondary authors. This way one could make sure that only the primary authors are cited in the text, and the secondary authors can appear in the bibliography. If you then however also want the secondary authors to be citable with all the normal biblatex benefits (uniquename etc.) that would require some work especially if one wants these to be applied full author list and not the "primary" and "secondary" part individually.
    – moewe
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 7:04

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure there is a 'technical' answer there, at least not with .bib files. The BibTeX format is easy to use and edit but doesn't allow adding XML-like 'meta-data' to authors. Any approach to adding additional markup will end up with repetition

authors  = {A. N. Other and B. Secondauthor and ...
nameauthors =  {A. N. Other and B. Secondauthor}

or need data that will not be transferable between styles

authors  = {A. N. Other* and B. Secondauthor* and ...

Moreover, saying that multiple authors 'should be given for equal credit' is not really what citations are for: they are to allow readers to unambiguously identify references. In areas that use author-date citations, the number of authors given is typically the minimum number to achieve that and typically the most 'important' author(s) are given at the start of the list as a result. However, that's not guaranteed. For example, in my subject area the corresponding (lead) author is commonly (though not exclusively) given last. As such, automated selection of author names is not appropriate and if I want to refer to a group leader I do it by hand

BigName and co-workers have reported~\cite{BigName2015} ...

(My subject area uses numerical citations so the above would have a number not some random first author surname as part of the citation.)

These subtleties are I think only realistically addressed by writing such information by hand in the manuscript.

  • 1
    “Moreover, saying that multiple authors 'should be given for equal credit' is not really what citations are for” — Maybe not in your field. In my field, however, shared first authorship is becoming increasingly important, and lack of annotation of this in text is frowned upon. Case in point: in my PhD thesis manuscript I had to manually insert citations into the main text rather than relying on an automatic bibliography because my examiners (and others) insisted on it. Incidentally, I agree that this is mixing up the purpose of author–year citations. But that’s out of my control. :-( Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 13:00
  • @KonradRudolph Sure, that's why I started with a technical reason I don't think this is doable (at least in any general sense). Relying on citations to tell you about the nature of authorship is I think risky (though clearly off-topic for us). [Perhaps you don't have this, but when I've tried to quote 'X, Y and co-workers' to cover the fact that two authors are marked as corresponding, the editorial office concerned cut it down to 'X and co-workers' quite deliberately as their line is it's either 'X and Y' or 'X and co-workers' :-)]
    – Joseph Wright
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 13:58

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