Authorship on a scientific publication and/or creative project  is both a reward and a responsibility.  The completion and signing on this agreement aids in the avoidance of conflicts on who should and will be included as an author on scholarly work.  For specific rules and recommendations regarding who (in general) qualifies for authorship, please refer to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Research Integrity’s policy on authorship and publication or the Ball State General Authorship Guidelines.

All BSU researchers are encouraged to share their scholarly findings in the form accepted by the university. This web page serves as a general guideline for consideration of the important issues and questions surrounding authorship and publication. 


  • Author:  an individual who has made substantial intellectual contributions to a scientific investigation, usually through participation in drafting, reviewing, and/or revising the manuscript for intellectual content
  • Authorship:  entails the ability to publicly take responsibility for the contents of the project (e.g., being sufficiently knowledgeable about the project to be able to present it in a formal forum)
  • Collaborative Research: i. equal partnership between two academic faculty members who are pursing mutually interesting and beneficial research, or ii. research involving investigators of differing stature, funding status, and types of organizations or institutions
  • Data: information collected for reference and analysis
  • Data Ownership: refers to both the possession of and responsibility for information
  • Plagiarism: to steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one’s own; literary theft
  • Presentation: a demonstration or display of a project and project findings
  • Publication: a structured and controlled means of communicating research results

Types and Order of Authors:

  • The following are acceptable types of authorship:
    • Lead Author:
      • Assumes overall responsibility for the manuscript and often serves as the managerial and corresponding author
      • Is not necessarily the primary investigator
    • Co-author(s):
      • Authors included in the project that are not the lead author
    • Acknowledgments:
      • Individual(s) who may have made some contribution to a publication, but who do not meet the criteria for authorship
        • Staff
        • Editorial Assistants
        • Medical Writers
        • Others
  • The order of authorship should be based on the degree of importance of each author’s contribution to the project. This is a collective decision among the authors in a group.

Roles of Authors:

  • Generally, examples of substantive contributions of authors include (but are not limited to)the following:
    • Aiding in the conceptualization of the hypotheses
    • Designing the methodology of the investigation
    • Significantly contributing to the writing of the manuscript
  • Activities that are not (alone) sufficient grounds for authorship:
    • Entering information into databases
    • Collecting data
      • Running subjects
      • Collecting specimens
      • Distributing and collecting questionnaires
  • Faculty-student collaborations should follow the same criteria to establish authorship. Mentors must exercise great care to neither award authorship to students who contributions do not merit it, nor deny authorship and due credit to the word of students.

Unacceptable Authorship:

  • Forms of unacceptable authorship include (but are not limited to) the following:
    • Ghost Authorship: occurs when a written work fails to identify individuals who made significant contributions to the research and writing of that work
    • Guest Authorship: granted out of the appreciation of respect of an individual, or in the belief that expert standing of the guest will increase the likelihood of publication, credibility, or status of the work
    • Gift Authorship: credit offered from a sense of obligation, tribute, or dependence, within the context of an anticipated benefit, to an individual who has not contributed to the work; also known as honorary authorship

Authorship Disputes:

In the case of an authorship dispute (i.e. disagreement over authorship and order of authors), it is the responsibility of the group to resolve the problem. If a resolution cannot be reached, any concerned party from the group is encouraged to contact the Office of Research Integrity.

To download a word document with the information provided above, click here.