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I am writing a historical introduction to my master's thesis. Therefore I am mentioning a lot of people and I don't want to write their full name and surname each time. However, I cannot write their surname only, as there might be homonyms. So I thought of three possible solutions:

  1. Write each time the initial of the name and the surname:

    ... as in the paper [1] by K. Kong. There it is thoroughly shown how to eat a banana, a revolutionary fact pioneered by K. Kong. Later, in the paper [2] by K. Kong and T.Rex, ...

  2. Write the initial of the name only the first time an author is mentioned:

    ... as in the paper [1] by K. Kong. There it is thoroughly shown how to eat a banana, a revolutionary fact pioneered by Kong. Later, in the paper [2] by Kong and T.Rex, ...

  3. Write the initial of the name the first time an author is mentioned and each time (s)he is mentioned together with some author who is mentioned for the first time:

    ... as in the paper [1] by K. Kong. There it is thoroughly shown how to eat a banana, a revolutionary fact pioneered by Kong. Later, in the paper [2] by K. Kong and T.Rex, ...

What do you think is the best practice?

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  • $\begingroup$ What program are you writing your master thesis in? $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2013 at 10:20
  • $\begingroup$ If there are homonyms, you should probably use initials everywhere for consistency and to avoid ambiguity. $\endgroup$
    – Zhen Lin
    Sep 11, 2013 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ @MattClarkson: I am using a LaTeX editor. $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2013 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ZhenLin: Can you publish this as an answer please? $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2013 at 10:40

1 Answer 1

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My advice is: put yourself in the place of the reader. What would you like to encounter? In my opinion, your historical introduction should be fully understandable without requiring the reader to look at the bibliography. (That should only be necessary if someone wants to actually find one of the papers you talk about.) Thus, I suggest that you give full first and last names and date of publication for each paper discussed. Of course, you don't have to repeat this information every time you mention the paper. There are a lot of solutions you could use for shortened repeat references, including just using numerical codes for the papers and last names for the authors.

There is no harm in being consistent, but consistency in itself is of very little benefit to the reader.

It is true that many mathematical publications only give first initials rather than complete first names, but if you can find the first names, it is much nicer for the reader to see a name, at least in cases where the author isn't best known by initials.

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