I have not been able to find an existing question similar to mine, but apologies if I've missed one.

I write an academic dissertation where I mention a lot of people. The first time someone is mentioned, I present him or her with an apposition, usually a title or affiliation, e.g. the physicist Jessica Ronan and the engineer Patrick Boyd. Now suppose that Ronan is mentioned very frequently, while Boyd is only mentioned now and then. Is it considered good practice to avoid repeating the affiliation for Ronan but occasionally repeat it for Boyd?

My intuition is that readers would never lose track of who Ronan is, and therefore always remember her as the physicist. With Boyd, who is only mentioned at every 20-30 pages or so, perhaps the readers need a little reminder at some point. Or is it a good idea to do that also for Ronan?

Don't forget these are not the only two persons in the text, there is about 100 all in all.

I should also add that I have a name index at the back of the book. Does this entirely remove the need for repetitions of the form above?


Here's an example of a historian that has done something similar (before this quoted passage, Copernicus has already been presented):

Copernicus’s theory remained incomplete, but the German physicist Johannes Kepler (1571--1630) was able to provide mathematical evidence in its support, while the Pisan astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564--1642) tested the Copernican hypothesis empirically by observing the planets through the telescope, which he had himself perfected.

Taken from page 67 in this book Karen Armstrong "The Battle for God".

Notice that this historian not only mentioned the profession of the persons but also their nationality and birth and death years.

  • Do you mention the names in relation with a work of theirs that you cite? Then mentioning their profession is unnecessary, all that interests the readers is the source that you cite from.
    – user5645
    Mar 22, 2015 at 15:26
  • I discuss these people and their professions, so I would say it's relevant to present their affiliations. Besides, it's part of the scholarly tradition to present professions at least once, in connection with when the person is first named.
    – rigor
    Mar 22, 2015 at 18:16
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    I have read and published academic journal articles, and have never mentioned or seen mentioned the professions of the authors of the works I cited or whose theories or research I discussed. Maybe you could mention the field you are doing research in and explain how the profession of those people is relevant to your research. Or maybe I misunderstand what you mean with "academic dissertation"? You mean a bachelor's, master's or Ph.D. thesis, don't you?
    – user5645
    Mar 22, 2015 at 21:08
  • It's a phd thesis in humanities/history and it's considered good style to present names at least once, on the first occurrence. I'm not only referring to cited authors but people who are discussed in the text, ie. people who are very central to the "story" of the text. (But yes also cited authors). I know it is not the tradition in, say, natural sciences to present authors in this manner.
    – rigor
    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:22
  • I've added an example in the original post above to show that I'm not the only historian in the world who uses this form of presentation ;-)
    – rigor
    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


If this is a question of accepted style then my first stop would be whoever would be likely to receive or review or grade or publish said work. Some bodies have very clear cut ideas about how things should be presented.

However if the focus here is readers then one need only consider their own expectations, memory skills, etc and the importance of the profession on the quote in question. I would personally have no problem with a writer mentioning the profession of a cited example person once each chapter, section or sub-heading.

Going further and assuming that the two mentions of the person are in separate sections and given that there might be no guidance notes available I would ask myself "what if this was an entirely new person?" and "what if someone started reading part way through?" From there I would reintroduce anyone who has long been left unmentioned.

On that score I have seen writers approach the need to remind readers by using the profession as part of what they are saying. For example: "Fred, as an engineer, could see that..."

TL;DR: Find out if there is a manual of style for the context within which you are writing, if there is not or it is not applicable then ask yourself which version is easier or more enjoyable to read (or least confusing).

  • Good answer! I've searched the most relevant style manuals (Chicaco, Oxford, MHRA) but found nothing. I suppose it's one of those unwritten rules.
    – rigor
    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:31
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    I'm totally with Matthew Brown on this one. What you may want to mention is both (a) what a person is today known for and (b) whatever is relevant to your "story". For example, Kepler of course wasn't only a physicist, but also a theologian, mathematics teacher, etc. So if you are discussing maths education during his time, then you might introduce him as the "physicist Kepler" (what we know him for today), but should later, after you have explained that he was a teacher, call him the "maths teacher Kepler" (to make it clear that you are talking about that aspect of his person and life).
    – user5645
    Mar 23, 2015 at 8:41

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