Scholarly Authoring & Presenting Guide

This guide will help you better understand the structure and composition of a scholarly article.


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Erin Owens
NGL 223D
ORCID: 0000-0001-9520-9314

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Authorship is Complicated

Some articles are easy: one researcher did all the analysis and wrote all the words. But some articles are complex: some papers in science and medicine have 50+ authors. Sometimes other individuals contribute to research in a particular way other than writing the manuscript.

So how do you decide who gets listed in the byline under the article's title??

Making Sense of Authorship

The primary standard for defining authorship in scientific publishing comes from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). They state that authors must have made significant contributions to study ideation and/or design. Their criteria for authorship include:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.


The following people should NOT be listed as authors in the byline, but may be acknowledged separately.

  • Someone who did not consent to be named as an author;
  • Someone who contributed to a paper but do not meet all of the above authorship criteria;
  • Someone who strictly provide oversight, regardless of their professional position.

Instances of exaggerated or disregarded authorship are not acceptable. This may include:

  • Guest authorship - Crediting a well-known scholar who did not contribute but whose name is expected to improve publication odds
  • Gift / Honorary authorship - Crediting someone as a favor, despite them having only a loose affiliation with the study (for instance, head of a department where a study was conducted)
  • Ghost authorship - Omitting a rightful author from a byline
  • Anonymous authorship - Publishing under a pseudonym
    • Note that, in rare cases, this may be allowed to protect a scholar from an anticipated risk/danger
  • Authorship for sale - Purchasing a spot in an author list

The guidelines linked below also provide direction on group authorship and addressing authorship by deceased or incapacitated authors (see section 2.2.2).


Can I list an A.I. Program As a Co-Author?

Following the emergence of generative AI programs such as ChatGPT, several publishers have implemented new guidelines prohibiting AI programs as co-authors and requesting transparent reporting of when generative AI is used in a study.

For more details, refer to the SHSU library presentation shared below (recording will start at 32:29, and the slideshow begins at slide 27, to highlight the discussion of publisher policies).

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The significance of an author's name appearing first, last, or in any particular position varies between disciplines.

In many cases, a position as first author indicates the primary contributor to the work. Other authors are listed in order of the significance of their contributions, from those most involved to those who provided study oversight.

  • A PhD student or young researcher who was primarily responsible for data collection, analysis, and manuscript writing would almost always be first author, especially if the paper itself is part of their PhD.
  • Last-author position is often reserved for the lab group leader.

Ultimately, it is up to the scholars conducting the work to determine who receives credit and in what order.

Collaborators are encouraged to discuss this issue at the beginning of a project, in order to avoid conflict later on.

Defining how both authors and non-authors contributed allows us to give credit and also avoid any confusion about what the order of authors' names might mean.

One useful tool for explaining the roles of all contributors is the Contributor Roles Taxonomy, or CRediT (managed by NISO).

CRediT defines 14 roles typically played by contributors to research outputs. A Contribution statement can be included in a paper (often just before the reference list) to associate each contributor's name with the roles they played.

  • Include all individuals who are listed as authors, included in acknowledgement, or who otherwise deserve credit for their contribution.
  • One person may play multiple roles.
  • Multiple people may play the same role.
  • Optionally you may indicate whether someone served in a Lead or Supporting capacity in a certain role.



Below are two examples of a Contribution statement using CRediT, borrowed from the website of the journal Evidence Based Library and Information Practice.

Example 1

Zhang Lee: Conceptualization, Methodology, Software Aditi Singh: Data curation, Writing - original draft Neeru Acharya: Visualization, Investigation Noel Jenson: Supervision Vijay Kumar: Software, Validation Caryn Dillon: Writing - review & editing

Example 2 (illustrating optional degrees of contribution)

Pierro Correia: Writing - review & editing (equal) Anna Berkowitz: Conceptualization (lead), Writing - original draft (lead), Formal analysis (lead), Writing - review & editing (equal) Yolanda Roberto: Software (lead), Writing - review & editing (equal) Takaaki Yamada: Methodology (lead), Writing - review & editing (equal) Qian Wu: Conceptualization (supporting), Writing - original draft (supporting), Writing - review & editing (equal)

This contribution statement can appear in the paper, often just before the references list.  Note that individual journals who have formally adopted CRediT may require alternate formatting of the statement or may need it to be entered in a more structured way as part of their manuscript submission process.


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