In my master thesis I want to state that I did not find any related work except for one paper. In scientific papers the authors often use the phrase "To the best of our knowledge, ...". However since I have no co-authors I can not use "our" and I also don't want to speak in first person so I also don't want to use "to the best of my knowledge" as that would sound strange somehow. Is there a formulation which expresses the same information but without speaking in first person ?


4 Answers 4


"To the best of my knowledge" sounds too legal for a Master's Thesis, "I looked and did not find any related work except for one paper" is too informal.

The following expresses the same information formally, without speaking in first person

A thorough search of the relevant literature yielded only one related article.

The fact that you, the author, did the search or vouch for the thoroughness is implied. Your search may have missed a relevant paper, but all anyone can expect is that you be conscientious and thorough.


Pursuing Hot Licks' comment:

"as far as this author knows" About 2,590 results

is quite well represented out there at Google Books in relatively recent times.

The funny thing is that:

"to the best of my knowledge" 13,900,000 results

shows up mainly in 19C references, while

"to the best of this author's knowledge" About 3,740 results

has many present day ones.

I wonder of the members of the learned societies have become more remote/formal lately :-)


You do want to avoid the Royal We1 in your scientific papers. That being said, it is generally acceptable to use the Author's We1.

The Author's We is not a nosism, like the Royal We, because it is not used to refer only to yourself. It is used to refer to you and the reader. So you could say "To the best of our knowledge..." and it is acceptable because it refers to yourself and the reader of the paper.

In situations where you prefer not to use the Author's We, normally you would rephrase the sentence in the passive voice.

...in passive voice, the subject is acted upon by the verb, which is a combination of a form of the verb "to be" (e.g., is, was , were) and the past participle (a verb with an "-ed" ending, commonly).2

Applying that principle is difficult in this case. So, to avoid using the first person, you could rephrase to the following or something similar:

It has been assumed that...

2David Schultz, Eloquent Science: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Better Writer, Speaker ...

  • Whoever downvoted, I was in the middle of making some edits and my answer probably didn't make sense during that time. Please let me know if there's anything I can improve.
    – Alex W
    May 1, 2015 at 17:12

First, using to the best of our knowledge is usual for single-authored papers. Further, in the case of thesis, "our" is correct, because it points to you and your supervisor.

As alternatives, following options could be considered.

  1. to the best of found knowledge

Example: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF03326178

  1. to the best of author's knowledge

Example: http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/11730262

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