Help:How to verify data


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This page is a help or manual page for the ISFDB database. It describes standards or methods for entering or maintaining data in the ISFDB database, or otherwise working with the database. Other help pages may be found via the category below. To discuss what should go on this page, use the talk page.

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Although the majority of the data in the ISFDB is accurate, it's not possible to tell, just by looking at the data, what data has been verified and is correct, and what data is still unchecked. To address this, the ISFDB has a verification feature. This allows anyone with a copy of a publication, or a copy of one of several bibliographic sources, to record a "verification" of that publication.


How to verify

First, let's assume that you have a copy of the publication itself. To verify it:

  • First check to make sure you're really talking about the same edition and printing of the book. Suppose the ISFDB copy say "Tor Books, 1996, $13.95", whereas your copy says 1996 also but is priced at $14.95. Is this an error? Not necessarily -- there may have been multiple printings of this edition, with different prices (and sometimes different cover art). Checking the printing indicators at the front of the book, and see if you can tell which printing yours is. Ideally each publication would list the printing and edition info in the notes, but in most cases there are not multiple printings in a year so the year is sufficient to identify the book.
  • Display the publication record. Examine all the data exactly as if you were going to enter it yourself. Are the page numbers accurate for the content? Is the cover artist correctly listed? Are the story authors listed as they appear in this publication? If anything needs to be changed, go ahead and update the ISFDB to have the correct information.
  • Once you are satisfied that the information is absolutely correct, click the "Verify this Pub" link in the left navbar. This will display a list of sources, with three radio buttons next to each one. Change the "Primary" line to select the "Verified" radio button. Then click "Submit Data". This will immediately mark the record as verified; there is no moderator approval required for verifications.

If you don't have a copy of the publication, but you do have a copy of one of the bibliographic sources, you can check the information in that source against the record in the ISFDB. The details vary from source to source. For example, the Nicholls/Clute "Encyclopaedia of SF" has little beyond dates of publication and titles for many works, whereas the Tuck "Encyclopedia of SF" has much more detailed information.

  • For these sources, simply check whatever data the source lists; if there are no disagreements, mark the source as verified.

Verification sources

These are the bibliographic references that ISFDB recognizes for verification:

Reference Description
Primary The actual book or magazine. If a publication is already verified by someone else then please see Primary2, 3, 4, and 5 below.
Clute/Nicholls The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, 2nd edition (1993/5)
Clute/Grant The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997); full text available in Amazon's Search Inside
Contento1 (anth/coll) Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections (till 1983) (web resource that can be searched using Google.)
Locus1 The Locus Index to Science Fiction: 1984-2007 (web resource that can be searched using Google)
Reginald1 Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, a Checklist, 1700-1974
Reginald3 Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991
Tuck The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968
Miller/Contento Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index (1890-2006+) (CD-ROM and on-line index that you can search using Google)
Bleiler1 (Gernsback) Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years: 1926 Through 1936
(Amazon's Look Inside seems to contain complete Title Index)
Currey Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: A Bibliography of First Printings of Their Fiction and Selected Non-Fiction (1979)
Primary (Transient) The actual book or magazine, but you will soon no longer have access to it for further queries. The difference between this type of verification and the regular "Primary" verification explained above is that you aren't guaranteeing to hold on to the publication for further questioning. Please double check the entered data if you don't expect to have access to the verification copy.
Bleiler78 The Checklist of Science-Fiction and Supernatural Fiction (1978)
OCLC/Worldcat OCLC/Worldcat (on-line database of library records)
Primary2 The actual book or magazine - but you are the second person to verify.
Primary3 The actual book or magazine - but you are the third person to verify.
Primary4 The actual book or magazine - but you are the fourth person to verify.
Primary5 The actual book or magazine - but you are the fifth person to verify.

Primary Verification

  • Primary verification should mean that all fields are complete...with a few exceptions:
    1. ISBN field for older works (roughly pre-1970) may be absent. Supply a catalog number if one is present on the cover, spine, back cover, copyright or title page. (Enter that with a "#" in front to stop the bibliographic warnings.) Some Magazines used to use an ISSN instead, but this is now generally recorded on the magazine's wiki page, not in the ISBN field. Magazine records may leave this blank. A few recent works, mostly limited editions and chapbooks, do not have ISBNs. In such a case the field may be blank or filled with a catalog number if one exists.
    2. Price field if there is no printed price on your copy. If your copy has no dustjacket or is price-clipped, note that in the pub's note field. (Some editors refrain from verifying a publication of this type, hoping that someone else who has a more intact copy will come along.)
    3. Cover artist, where the artist is not credited within the pub. You can make an educated guess if there is a visible signature, but make a note to that effect in the pub's note field. If an artist is credited from a secondary source, please indicate the source in the notes field.
    4. If the work is an anthology or collection, you should enter all contents (with the possible exception of interiorart and letters) before marking the pub as verified. This includes entering page numbers, except when no numbers are available (unpaginated books, and most e-books and audio books).
    5. Cover art URL. Linking to cover art is always optional. However, if cover art is available at a site we have permission to link to, please use it. If there is an option, do not use the amazon LZZZZZZ URLs, as they are often replaced by new art when/if a new edition with the same ISBN is issued. If there is a cover art URL that does not work, please blank it if you can't find a working URL.
  • Please feel free to verify any pub that you have in hand and from which you are entering information, whether that pub record was previously created or one which you created yourself. But wait until all submissions have been accepted by a mod before verifying the pub. A mod gets a warning message if a submission changes a verified pub.
    • Additional reasons for not verifying changes that have not yet been approved: If a moderator rejects a change, or accepts but adjusts an edit, it's YOUR name there on the verification and YOU will get questions. Adding data is usually fine. Correcting data - well, be careful about contents, you're working on every entry for that title we have, NOT just the entry in the work in front of you. We all got caught out with that at least once, and the workaround (Add new title, remove old title, merge new title if necessary) does mean a bit of a wait for approvals at times.
  • If some information about a verified publication does not come from the book itself, this should be indicated in the notes, and some indication of where the information did come from is desirable. This can be very brief (e.g. "Month from Amazon" "Price from Locus Index" "Cover art credit from later printing"). This helps a later editor trying to determine if a book is a different publication or not, or to check detailed information for other purposes.

Primary (Transient) Verification

This is used just like Primary Verification, and should meet the same standards. The difference is that a Primary Verifier is generally assumed to have possession of or ready access to the publication in question, and is prepared to respond to queries about it. Primary (Transient) Verification is for situations where the verifier is likely to be unable to respond to queries -- for example if the book is borrowed or is scheduled to be sold or discarded after the verification is complete.

Making changes to verified pubs

It is a matter of courtesy to inform the verifier of changes you make to his or her primary verified pubs, unless a specific verifier has requested not to be notified of particular types of changes. It is very strongly encouraged that you notify the verifier first if the change is particularly significant. Many moderators will not approve a "destructive" change -- that is one that removes or alters data in a verified pub record -- unless the verifier has been asked first. Changes that only add data are usually considered less significant, but verifiers should still be notified of such changes.

Verification Rules

The rows in the verification table represent bibliographic references, while the columns represent the verification state. The list of references in this table is controlled by the ISFDB moderators. The three possible verification states are:

  • Not Verified - This is the default state. This means that no work has been done to verify the publication data against the specified reference.
  • Verified - This state means that a comparison was done between the ISFDB data and the specified reference.
  • N/A - This state means that the reference in question has no record of this publication.

While verification seems straightforward, there are some ground rules which need to be established concerning the use of N/A. These are:

  • If the reference in question has no record of this particular book, then it should be marked N/A.
  • If the copyright date of the publication is later than the copyright date of the reference, then that particular reference should be marked N/A. This is really just a common sense corollary of the previous rule, meaning that you're not going to find data on an author like Neal Asher (who started publishing in the 90s) in Tuck's Encyclopedia (which was published mostly in the 70s), so don't even bother looking.
  • If the reference only lists first editions, and the publication in question is not a first edition, then the reference should be marked N/A. This would include secondary sources like Reginald or the Clute encyclopedias.
  • Some online references continue to grow (like the Locus index). If the publication date of the book in question is later than the last update to the online reference, it should be marked Not Verified, implying that it may be done at a later date.


  • If there are disagreements, then you should make a note in the notes field for that publication, listing the differences you have found. Generally it is not a good idea to update the record to agree with the source, though if the publication is rare and hard to find, and multiple sources agree, it may be the right choice. In addition, if it appears that the problem is a simple typographical error, there is no reason not to make the update. A true typographical error in the publication should indeed be listed on the publication record, but should always be accompanied by a note explaining the situation.
  • Note that once you've made corrections, or updated the notes field, you can go ahead and mark the publication as verified against that source, even if there were disagreements in the data. "Verified" doesn't mean that the source was correct; it means that the comparison has been made and the useful bibliographic data extracted. This will avoid other editors repeating your work.
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