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Web of Science: Using a Citation Database: Author Names: Practice and Tips

Launch Web of Science

Web of Science can be accessed using the link below.  This link, along with the links to Web of Science on the library homepage and the databases page, allow users to access the resource from both on- and off-campus.

General Author Search

Finding all the papers by an author (e.g. to report on an evaluation or application form), is a common reason for using Web of Science, but author searching presents special problems and imperfect solutions.

  • You may need to look for variations in the way an author's name has been spelled and formatted. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, search for name variants by using wildcards and/or alternative spelling. Combine the variants using OR.
  • It can be challenging to differentiate between the work of authors with similar (or identical) names. You can focus the search by adding topics, dates or instutional addresses to the general Search, or use the Refine Search feature. 

First names and initials: author names should be entered with the last name first, followed by initial(s) or first name and initials with no punctuation: Nimchinsky EA.

Most Web of Science records still use only initials for an author's first and middle names, but many recent citations provide full first names as well as initials. Example: Esther A Nimchinsky is listed in Web of Science as E Nimchinsky, EA Nimchinsky and also Esther A Nimchinsky.

You can do a quick search for an author name by entering just the last name or the last name and one initial. Web of Science automatically adds the asterisk (*) wildcard when you enter only one initial: Nimchinsky E is the same seach as Nimchinsky E*. This search captures all Dr. Nimchinsky's name variations, but also find papers by EB Nimchinsky, EL Nimchinsky, etc. 


Tip: To restrict the author seach to just one initial, put the name in quotes: "Nimchinsky E" finds only papers attributed to authors named E Nimchimsky, and not EA Nimchimsky, EB Nimchimsky etc.

Tip: For a more precise search, use the OR operator and quotes. Search for the name using all the variations you know (or suspect):  "Nimchinsky E" OR Nimchinsky EA OR Nimchinsky Ester A OR Nimchinsky Esther.

You can also enter a wildcard after each initial in an author's name. For example, Nimchinsky E*A finds records by Nimchinsky EA OR Nimchinsky Ester A. Keep in mind, however, that the use of wildcards in a lengthy search may cause the search to time out.

Take care when names include hyphens, apostrophes, spaces or other punctuation.

The search engine treats hyphens (-) and apostrophes (') in names as spaces. Example: O Brian returns the same number of results as O'Brian


Tip: Search for surnames that include punctuation or spaces with and without a space.

Example: O'Brian may be listed as OBrian or O Brian. The search for obrian OR o brian will retrieve both.

Example: Newton-John may be listed as NewtonJohn or Newton John. Search newtonjohn OR newton john to retrieve both. 

Tip: To avoid problems with search operator order, it is best to put all the name variations, connected with the OR operator, into one single query box. Make sure the Author field is selected.

Try It

You need to find all the papers by Dr. Bernadette M. Boden-Albala, Associate Professor of Health Evidence and Policy and Neurology at ISMMS. 

On the Basic Search screen in one single Author field: 
  • Enter Dr. Boden-Albala's name using one and two initials and the full first name with one or both initials..
  • To account for variations for the hyphenated last name, in the same author field type her last name without a space between Boden and Albala: BodenAlaba. Repeat the same first initial variations.
  • For more precision, put the surname variations with the single initial in quotes.
  • Combine the variations with OR.

Your search should look like "Boden-Albala B" OR Boden-Albala BM OR Boden-Albala Bernadette OR Boden-Albala Bernadette M OR "BodenAlbala B" OR BodenAlbala BM OR BodenAlbala Bernadette OR BodenAlbala Bernadette M. You should get about 305 results.

Look at your results: Because Dr. Boden-Albala has an uncommon surname, all of the papers seem to be in her specialty areas: neurology and health policy. It will not be necessary to refine the search to exclude authors with the same last name and first initial.  However with more common names (e.g. last name Smith or Wang), additional refinements may be necessary to narrow your results to that author's research.


Why so complex?

Systems to disambiguate author names and/or create unique author identifiers are under active investigation by database programmers and publishers — and by funding agencies and researchers seeking to understand and leverage research networks. Products are evolving, and standards are being defined. Web of Science is refining several tools to identify authors: the Author Index, Author Search, Distinct Author Record Sets, and Researcher ID.

Author Index

The Author Index is best used when you are unsure of the correct spelling or variant spellings of a name. The link to the Author Index appears to the right of the Author field in the general Search. 

You can Browse through a list of items alphabetically . You can also enter a name or the first few characters of a name in the Move To search box.

Click the Add button to select a name and add it to the text box at the bottom of the page. You must add names one at a time. When you are finished, click OK to transfer the selected name(s) to the search field on the general Search page.

The Author Index does not include full first names, only initials. It uses an implicit wildcard after initials, so a search will retrieve records with full first names. It cannot, however, be used to disambiguate names with identical last names and initials, even if the first names are different.

Author Search

You can toggle to the specific Author Search option by clicking the downward arrow next to Basic Search on the search page and selecting Author Search.  It is designed to help separate and identify works by different authors who have the same or similar names. Add the researcher's name and up to 4 initials. You can also add one or more research domains and organizational names. As noted earlier, indexing for research domains and organizational names in Web of Science may not be complete or what you would expect. This obviously affects the quality of the results in the Author Search.

At the top of the Author Search results page, you'll see a total number of records retrieved and then a hyperlinked number of Record Sets.

Author Record Sets

Author Record Sets are developed using an algorithm that combines data on author names, institution names, and citing and cited author relationships. Author names are presented in descending order by the number of publications in the set. The Author Record Sets option appears only when you use the dedicated Author Search.

To view the records in one or more record sets, select the check box of each set, and then click the View Records button. The system takes you to the  Distinct Author Summary page. Because data is still being added to create distinct author sets, an author may find that his or her papers are in more than one set.

Researcher ID enables you to create a free personal profile in its Web site. You can include information about your institutional affiliations, research interests, and a list of your publications.

Once registered, you will be assigned a ResearcherID number. Your publication list will have live citation information (such as the h-index) from Web of Science, and provide links back your records there. The ResearcherID Web site is freely searchable: if you enable a public profile, it can help others identify you as a potential collaborator.

Web of Science will use the information in your ResearcherID profile to further develop its Distinct Author Sets and Author Name Index, making it easier for Web of Science users to find your publications.

More information is available on the ResercherID Web site.