How to Anonymise Your Paper

Beth Hannon

As we’ve mentioned in various places before (for example, here), the BJPS operates a triple-masked system. That means that none of the paperwork you submit should identify you. Sounds straightforward, right? And yet, and yet…


How to Fail to Anonymise Your Paper

1. Leave your name on it

As self-explanatory as it is self-identifying, and more common than you could possibly imagine. 

2. Identify your previously published work in all but name

In (XXXX, 2014), I argued for a position that I termed the ‘Self-Identifying’ Argument. Anyone qualified enough to act as referee for this paper is very likely to be familiar with this work and thus screw you, anonymous review.

This makes your editor cry.

In (Hannon, 2014), she argued for a position she termed the ‘Referring to Oneself in the Third Person Is Sometimes Okay’ principle on the grounds that very anonymous.

This gives your editor warm and happy feelings.

3. Name drop

Just say no. While this may not reveal your identity, it does reveal your ‘insider’ status. 

Much respect to Prof Big Shot #1, Prof Big Shot #2, all my homies from the Oxbridge massive, keepin’ it realism.

Many thanks to Aristotle for pressing me on this point (personal correspondence).

If your paper is published, you can acknowledge the help of anyone and everyone who has ever helped you; but until that point, keep your connections under wraps!


Failure to properly anonymise your work will result in your precious paper being brutally redacted. There will be ugliness.


Brave new online world

A far trickier issue arises when it comes to making your draft paper available via any of the variety of online repositories for academic papers. Someone expert enough to be called on to review your paper is likely to be keeping up with what’s being published, for instance, on philpapers or in the philsci archive. We ask referees when they accept our invitation to review to let us know if they can identify the author and, further, to refrain from trying to identify the author (for example, by googling the paper’s title). But even with the best will in the world on the part of referees, anonymity can be compromised. For example, some sites generate notifications for subscribers of papers recently uploaded in their chosen categories. 


If you don’t feel particularly worried by the biases of referees—implicit or otherwise—the benefit of having your paper available online as soon as possible may well outweigh any drawbacks. However, if you think that anonymous review might be a Good Thing, then think carefully before making your paper available online in this way. At the very least, use a different title.