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Authorship Guidelines

The American Psychological Association (2002) provides ethical standards for the allocation of authorship credit and authorship order, and a number of academic institutions and departments (e.g., University of Pennsylvania, Berkeley, and Harvard) have articulated policies to encourage appropriate authorship determination. The APA standards are:

“8.12 Publication Credit

(a) Psychologists take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed or to which they have substantially contributed. (See also Standard 8.12b, Publication Credit.)

(b) Principal authorship and other publication credits accurately reflect the relative scientific or professional contributions of the individuals involved, regardless of their relative status. Mere possession of an institutional position, such as department chair, does not justify authorship credit. Minor contributions to the research or to the writing for publications are acknowledged appropriately, such as in footnotes or in an introductory statement.

(c) Except under exceptional circumstances, a student is listed as principal author on any multiple-authored article that is substantially based on the student’s doctoral dissertation. Faculty advisors discuss publication credit with students as early as feasible and throughout the research and publication process as appropriate. (See also Standard 8.12b, Publication Credit.)” 

Authorship Guidelines for the Psychology Department at Stony Brook

Jobs in various professional settings for psychologists have become increasingly competitive due to economic factors and cutbacks in budgets in both government and private sectors. With this concern in mind, it becomes more important to facilitate the professional development of graduate students and to encourage them to publish the results of their scholarly and research activities. The APA guidelines above for dissertation publication are relatively clear, but the guidelines for research projects prior to the dissertation are not.  In general, it is advisable to facilitate first authorship for graduate student research and scholarly projects prior to the dissertation in order to encourage professional development of graduate students and the likelihood of obtaining positions in professional settings. As in all departmental situations, when questions arise, students and faculty members may go to the area head, graduate director, or department chair for guidance. The issue of authorship should involve an ongoing conversation and joint decision-making among faculty, students, and any other individuals who are collaborating on a research project, beginning before work commences and continuing until the manuscript is officially accepted. This allows for all potential authors to know exactly what their expected contributions to the project will be and helps forestall misunderstandings regarding obligations and credit. Students especially should know what sorts of contributions are required for obtaining first-authorship status. The following contributions to the research process are among those that should be considered when assigning authorship credit and order. This list is not all-inclusive, but provides key elements of conducting research that may warrant authorship credit. 

  1. Conceptualize and refine research ideas
  2. Review literature
  3. Design research
  4. Collect and prepare data
  5. Analyze data
  6. Write manuscripts/posters 

Additional factors that could be considered, as well as discussions of authorship issues, can be found at: