Sometimes a simple author search will yield exactly the results you are seeking, especially if the author has a highly unique name and/or a small publication set.
However, more often than not, searching for authors can be challenging, especially with common surnames. Here are a few tips to help you find authors' publications.
1. Use the last name and first initial when searching.
Example: Smith J
Publications publish authors names in various ways from full first names (Jane Smith) to the first initial (J Smith) to first initial plus middle initial (JL Smith).
So if you stick with the last name/surname and first initial, that will usually pick up citations with the full first name as well as single initial and double initials.
2. Use author's affiliation to help winnow down results and keep the affiliation broad to capture as many variations of the affiliation name as possible.
Example 1: Smith J AND Wisconsin
Example 2: Smith J AND (Wisconsin OR WI OR wisc)
If you are searching for an author's work that was published while working at a specific organization, agency, or school, then it is helpful to add that affiliation, especially when there are hundreds of results.
However, much like authors' names, publications will publish all kinds of variations of affiliations. For example, if an author is affiliated with UW-Madison, you might see it listed as: UW-Madison, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Univ. of Wisconsin, to name just a few. You may also see the full address listed, sometimes not.
Sometimes the author may have more than one affiliation, such as UW-Madison and the Madison VA Hospital, so sometimes a publication may only list one of those or combine them.
So to help capture as many results with the author and their affiliation, we recommend keeping the affiliation broad. For example, instead of trying to think of all the ways University of Wisconsin-Madison could be written, use Wisconsin instead.
Of course, if you are seeking the author's full body of work this may not apply especially if the person has been affiliated with more than one institution.
3. Limit results to the years of publications if you are looking for a certain set of years.
This only applies if you are seeking publications from certain years. This can be helpful if someone has a long career of publishing and many publications to their name.
Of course, if you are seeking the author's full body of work this may not apply.
4. Use more than one database.
Example: PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, Google Scholar
Not every database indexes the same journals, so it is important to check those databases for any other publications the author may have published in.
Furthermore, Google Scholar may pull up some grey literature (white papers, reports) that are not published in the traditional channels and would not be picked up by databases like PubMed.
5. Use a database's specialized author search if it has one.
Example: Scopus' Author Search
Some databases have some specialized ways of searching for authors, which can be useful. Scopus' author search even uses the Scopus Author Identifier, a special algorithm that links author names based on several factors (such as affiliation, subject area, co-authors to name a few).
6. Search by the author's unique identifier, if he or she has one.
Some databases have a field in the search area to plug in the author identifier. For example, in PubMed it is the Author-Identifier field and in Web of Science, there is an Author Identifiers field. In Scopus, there is a specific ORCiD field.
Unique identifiers, such as ORCiD, are unique strings of numbers and possibly letters that when used point to the author associated with that number. That number is unique only to that author, so when you search with the identifier, it will pull only that author's citations.
ORCiD (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) provides unique identifiers to individual authors and is an easy way for authors to track their publications.