Listing Authors on Your Research Paper

In an ideal world, all authors listed on an academic paper would be seen as an equal contributors to the research and of equal importance. However, this is not the case. For a long time, the academic industry has set the precedent that the first author listed on the paper is the primary author who did the most work and is of the most importance. Unfortunately, this precedent has caused much confusion among readers, researchers, and academics alike as to how much each author is worth to each academic paper.

The first author’s name on an academic paper is a much sought after position. The person in this spot often has the good fortune of his or her name associated with the paper, since citation rules often limit in-text citations to the first author’s last name. This causes the rest of the authors in a citation to receive the unfortunate “et al” label. This tradition has led to the assumption that the rest of the authors listed are in descending order of contribution or importance. In addition to the first author listed, the name of the last author listed is also a coveted position since it has been traditionally reserved for the supervisor of a project. In contrast to this traditional way of listing authors, there are a number of other methods used to list authors on a paper:

  • Alphabetical – This is a method where by authors are listed in alphabetical order regardless of contribution effort. This is very convenient for large group projects.
  • Contribution statement – This method places an asterisk next to each author’s name, with a statement as to what they directly contributed to the article. This is becoming a more popular method, as many journals now require authors to explain their exact role in the research in addition, it is becoming more popular because it allows for more transparency as to how the research was conducted.
  • Negotiated order – This is a method whereby authors negotiate and “fight out” among themselves how the author list will be written. This allows all the authors to agree upon how they should be listed based on their efforts. Of course, the downside of this method is that it leaves less powerful members of a research team vying for political support regardless of the work they conducted.

Since there are no rules or standards regarding listing authors, problems can arise from the lack of transparency. The reader has to wonder how much each author actually worked on the research or how much politics played into the decision to list an author first.

There are several solutions to the problem of first author prestige. As listed above, a contribution statement is one of the solutions to this problem. Another solution is ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID). ORCID is a unique identifier that allows an individual researcher to connect his or her articles and work to his or her name, regardless of what order names appear on the author list of an article. This unique identifier also allows an individual researcher to be distinguished from other researchers who have the same name. This allows authors to clarify what work is theirs and what their accomplishments are.

For more information on ORCID, try these websites:

This post was contributed by Annette Carr, Chief Librarian, Bay Shore and was originally published in ‘Significant Results: The Research Newsletter of the School of Health Sciences’ Volume 1, Issue 1. It is reprinted here with permission.

Introducing UlrichsWeb: A Periodicals Directory

An authoritative source with over 300,000 periodicals, including scholarly, peer-reviewed, open access, popular magazines, and newspapers in over 900 subject areas, UlrichsWeb has numerous features to guide faculty and graduate students as they decide where to publish, judge the quality and legitimacy of publications, and assess how widely an article might be disseminated in any particular publication.

Ulrich’s platform is searchable and browsable by title, subject, keywords, and more. If you are exploring potential journal titles in which to publish your work, you can jump-start your query with its simple search box, or, if you want to search like a pro, try out the Advanced Search options, where you can limit your search by type of publication, subject area, and key features, such as whether it is peer-reviewed, open access, abstracted, or indexed, or has one of many other attributes.

Since this directory is integrated into the Touro Libraries databases, you can easily discover what journals are available via the Libraries by clicking on the green logo for the 360 e-Journal Portal on the right side of the page. If the journal is available in full-text, you can browse through previously published articles to get a better sense of what kind of publications the journal is looking for.

Ulrich’s provides indexing and abstracting information (you can select this limiter in the advanced search) for a publication with several benefits:

  1. If you want your published work to be visible and retrievable, it is important to know if the journal of your choice is indexed in databases or resources where it can be retrieved by other researchers, practitioners, and scholars. In other words, the indexing information for a journal can be a measurement of your article’s future exposure.
  2. The more databases in which the article appears, the more potential impact any given article may have.
  3. The indexing and abstracting information can also help in identifying journals that are more established and recognized in your field. Predatory journals will automatically be forced out of the game, since they are mostly not indexed in prestigious databases — though some have sneaked their way in, so we have to be always on the alert. See more information on how to avoid predatory publishers in our Research and Scholarship LibGuide.

In addition to the advanced search, you can also narrow your search by checking the options in the left pane. On the results page, you can view the details of a journal title, save or download your list of searches or email them to yourself (note: you need to open an individual account to save your lists for a later date).

If you click on “Change Columns,” you can customize some of the information depending on what you are looking for. Personally, I would add “Frequency” to my search column, since it gives me an idea about how long it might take to get published.

Finally, a small but important space is dedicated to a review or description of a journal’s purpose and its intended audience. This summary helps to quickly determine if your research topic aligns with the scope and content of the journal. On the results page, you can also directly access the publisher’s website with more detailed information on the journal, its submission guidelines, and more.

UlrichsWeb is accessible via the Touro Libraries Databases after you log in with your TouroOne credentials. Please email Sara Tabaei with any questions about UlrichsWeb or to schedule a walk-through of the database over Zoom.

Fun fact: Ulrich’s was originally published as a book in 1932 by Carolyn Farquhar Ulrich, the Head of Periodicals at the New York Public Library. Librarians rock!

This post was contributed by Sara Tabaei, Library Information Literacy Director