Okay so I have collected personal spending data of myself and significant other over a period of 6 months. I'm quite happy with the data and would like to present it and write it up as a research paper. I'm not going to be publishing it but would like to do it for fun (and a bit of practice can't hurt).

The dilemma I am facing at the moment is that I cannot figure out how to refer to myself or my significant other as participants in the study. I have been trying to figure this out for a few days now and google is really giving me a hard time. I cannot find a single thing relevant to what I am trying to do.

My first issue I have come to is that I am captioning a figure that reads similar to this. Figure 1: Average daily spending vs time for myself (solid line) and significant other (dotted line).

Is this the correct way to refer to myself and significant other? It feels much too informal for my liking. I have considered making a small statement that states that myself will be referred to as "participant A" and my significant other will be referred to as "participant B", but this might add unnecessary confusion.

Is there a standard on this? This has been driving me absolutely crazy over the past few days and would really appreciate any insight or suggestions.


3 Answers 3


I'd go with the approach you've already hit upon here:

I have considered making a small statement that states that myself will be referred to as "participant A" and my significant other will be referred to as "participant B", but this might add unnecessary confusion.

I don't think it's going to add any confusion. If participant is a bit too long, you could also use the term subject if that would help.

Now, if the fact that you are participant A and your SO is participant B is significant (I don't know what your thesis is), than you may want to continue using similar language. I'd opt for self and partner to keep it succinct.


Generally it is considered problematic when the researcher is also the subject of the study, because of possible confounding effects. For example, you expectations could change your behavior; this is called the Rosenthal effect. Also, in a single-subject design such as yours, any results could be caused by your possibly non-average personality, circumstances, or mere chance, and therefore not be representative of the population. In normal research, what you report would be considered anecdotal evidence.

Nevertheless many self-experiments have been undertaken, especially in medicine, when experimenting on another person would have been unlawful or unethical.

As for your question, the single most important rule in scientific writing – besides truthfulness, of course – is


Any reader of your paper must easily understand what you did. The fact that you were the subject of your research must not be cloaked behind obfuscating terminology. Instead of calling yourself a "participant", which suggests that you gave instructions to another person and observed his behavior,

speak of yourself as yourself.

And make it equally clear what the relationship to your "significant other" is, as far as it is relevant to the study: is that person your husband/wife (implying legally joined finances) or a boy/girl-friend (possibly living in their own flat).


Interesting notion. If you consider how a normal scientific research paper is set up :





Materials and Methods

Statistical analysis

Discussion of Results/effect of bias


Suggestions for further research

Financial disclosures

I would place your chosen name in both abstract and introduction but not in author or title. You can then use such nomenclature throughout. The name itself doesn't really matter; personally I'd make it funny in an ironic way. A recent brain protein was named "sonic hedgehog," for instance. You should also disclose in the discussion section the bias of being one's own researcher.

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