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.

A Software Named ‘R’

While many researchers rely on SPSS or SAS to handle their statistical data, many users are starting to migrate to R software. Unlike SPSS and SAS, which are propriety and costly to buy, R is a free, open source software that may be used for computing statistics while conducting research. Besides the cost, there are many advantages to R. It works with Windows, Macintosh, UNIX, and Linux platforms. It runs wide variety of functions, from basic to advanced; functions such as data manipulation, graphics, and statistical modeling are available. Because the software is open sourced, many developers have written and distributed add-on packages at no cost to the user, in order to improve functionality.

While there are many advantages to R software, it is not without its downsides. Traditional software packages, like SPSS and SAS, have a very comprehensive user interface and are easy to use. For example, SPSS interface looks very much like an excel spreadsheet, with which most people are familiar and using. In contrast, R has a large learning curve and can be less user friendly. It relies more on programming and coding knowledge, with which many researchers do not have experience. However, there are sources online to help researchers learn the programming fundamentals that are required to use R. Another area where R lacks is in technical support. Both SPSS and SAS are commercial products and have customer/technical support available to users. Since R is open sourced software, there is no official support. However, a large community of R users can help one another troubleshoot problems and offer peer support to one another. If users are not comfortable with peer support, there are third party groups that provide support for R and respond to problems rather quickly.

R software can be downloaded and installed at https://cran.r-project.org

A session about R will be offered at the SHS Faculty Research Retreat on February 12, 1:30-2:30 PM.

Additional resources

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.

From Kew Gardens Hills to Bay Shore

We did have these at my last library!
We didn’t have these at my last library!

Touro libraries are not all the same. Are we one big family? Yes! Work very well together across the miles? Yes! Provide services to students and staff? Yes, again! However, there are still some pretty big differences between the locations. This is something I have a new perspective on after moving from librarian at the Lander College for Men to become Chief Librarian at the Bay Shore Campus in Fall 2015. Continue reading