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How to do a Literature Search: Author searching

Problems with author searches

When searching for an author you are normally aiming to find everything that they have written. It may sound easy but you can encounter many problems when searching for author names. For example:

  • Different authors may have the same name
  • You may not be able to tell which is the authors last name and which is their first name
  • An author may use slightly different names in different publications: J.Smith or John Smith
  • An author may change their name e.g. if they get married.

This page will give you some hints and tips for how to overcome these problems.

Finding a full list of publications

Many authors will keep a full list of their publications on a personal or institutional website. Google may actually be the best way to find this. But if you have an author with a common name, you need to choose the right one.  Here are some tips:

  • If you know the name of the institution where the author works, search for their surname and the Institution name e.g. Ian Williams University of Bath
  • If you don't know the name of the institution, try searching for the authors surname and some topic keywords
  • If you can find any article by the author, it should give you the name of their institution.

Searching library databases for author names

Different databases use different methods for finding author names so we would advise you to read the database help. But in general:

  • Make sure you are searching using an author search box (author 'field') not a topic search box.
  • Make sure you enter the author's name in the correct format. For example in Web of Science use Smith J*
  • For names with punctuation you may need to search with and without the punctuation, for example O'Brien P* OR OBrien P*
  • Search for double-barrelled names with and without the hyphen, for example Kasprzyk-Hordern B* OR Kasprzyk Hordern B*

Author identifiers

Some databases have introduced 'author identifier' systems to help you to find publications by a particular author even when they have a common name. For example Web of Science Core Collection uses a system called 'ResearcherID'.  But database-specific identifiers are of limited use so an international system is being developed, called ORCID.  Library databases may allow you to search for an author identifier:

  • In Web of Science, there is a field called 'author identifier' which searches for ResearcherID or ORCID
  • Scopus has a field for searching ORCID

If you are a researcher and would like to set up an ORCID, please go to: