How to determine the order of authorship in an academic paper

Being the first author on a paper is a big deal in academia. If you are not sure how to determine the order of authorship on your paper, a quick Google Scholar search will provide valuable insights.

You would guess that the order is determined by the amount of work or by whom came up with the original idea, right ? Let’s call this the common sense style:

by mutual agreement

by mutual agreement based on the number of hours each author committed to the project

by degree of contribution to the manuscript

by the extent of participation

in part by order of contribution to conception of the research

However, there are many more ways to decide on the order, here is a quick summary of what I found:

The arbitrary style



in a arbitrary manner

by order of birthright and degree date

on a basis other than relative contribution to this paper

by alphabetical order of surnames

The Galaxy Quest style (Never give up, never surrender)

by efforts made on final revisions

The gaming style

by a game of Rochambeau

by rock, papers, scissors

The in house style

by whose turn it was

The random style

by the flip of a coin, by a coin toss, by flipping a coin, by a coin flip

by the toss of a coin and should be considered equal

by tossing a two-pence coin

by the flip of a weighted coin

by 5 flips of a coin

by a  flip of what [Dr X] claimed was a fair coin, on the basis of a fair coin tosses

by [Dr X] flip of a coin, by toss of a coin performed by [Dr X]

in a socially just manner by the toss of a coin

by rolling dice

by a random process upon completion of the manuscript

by lot

by random chance

by a random process

by random selection

by random assignement


solely on a chance basis

by random draw

by a random procedure

by lottery

The almost random style

by randomisation except the senior author

by a quasi random process

in a fairly arbitrary manner

The food style:

by a coin flip in an expensive restaurant

by scramble competition for peat-flavored spirit

The sport style

from a 25 game cricket series held at Imperial college field station during summer 1973

by a tennis match

And finally, some more creative or obscure ways:

by simulated coin tosses

randomly with the S-plus sample function

by genetic lottery

by random fluctuation in the euro/dollar exchange rate

alpha-posed that people compare the sizes of betically

by relative exactitude of Bayesian priors

What’s your favorite method ?


UPDATED: found a few more.

UPDATED 2: now with links to papers (Phew.).