Author disambiguation: Exclude co-authors

Publish or Perish tutorial

Note: This tutorial was originally written for Publish or Perish v4 and all screenshots come from this version. However, the information as such is also applicable for later versions of Publish or Perish.

How do you disambiguate in Publish or Perish if you are unlucky enough to have a namesake with exactly the same family name and given name and no second initial to differentiate? There are many Peter Smiths or Michelle Browns!

Use co-authors to disambiguate

If you are lucky, your namesake has published with only a limited number of co-authors. In that case, you can use the name of other co-authors to restrict the search. You will probably need to combine multiple search strategies described above.

Extended example: Michelle Brown

Let’s take Michelle Brown, a former colleague of mine at the University of Melbourne working in industrial relations and human resource management, as an example. Looking for “M Brown” alone gets us nowhere, there are more than 1,000 results. That doesn’t even include all of Michelle’s own papers. Google Scholar limits the results to the 1,000 most cited papers and even the least cited result still had 53 citations. Hence many papers with fewer citations are not reported.

  • Using Michelle Brown instead of “M Brown” (Use full given name) already limits the number results to 614 and lists all of Michelle’s papers.
  • Excluding “M* Brown” and “M** Brown” (Exclude homonyms) brings the results down to 357.
  • Excluding "AM Brown" "BM Brown" "CM Brown" "JM Brown" "KM Brown" "LM Brown" "TM Brown" and limiting the starting year to 1997 (Use year restrictions) brings the results further down to 252.
  • Excluding co-authors "F Princen" "F Wilson" "G Studer" "K Kendall" "CL Gardner" "B Sourkes" "B Hoffman" brings us down to 227.

Limitations of this strategy

Unfortunately, Google Scholar only allows a certain number of characters in the Exclude these authors field and we have now run out. As the screenshot below shows, we are still not there as the first four publications are not Michelle’s. Still, there are now only just over 200 publications to go through manually instead of 1,000.


Please note: In Publish or Perish version 5, you will need to put these exclusions in the None of the words field. Author exclusions without wildcards (i.e. * or ** or ***) can also be included in the Author's name field preceded by a minus sign (-)

Workable strategy if you need h-index only

Moreover, if you are only interested in the h-index there are now only about 30 publications to check (of which 17 are Michelle’s). As all the “offending” publications are in Medicine, History, or Media Studies this should be fairly easy.

All your queries are saved for future use

You do not need to enter these exclusions again every time you do the same search. All your searches are automatically saved in the multi-query center. I’ll tell you more about that in future tips, but you can take a peak now if you want. You will find all the queries you have ever run there.

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