• Barbara Chamberlin

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Our process for noting roles, defining authorship, and citing digital products as references


Everything in the Innovative Media Research and Extension studio is highly collaborative in nature: every design project engages teams of researchers and content experts, as well as creative developers such as artists, programmers and writers. Some of our products are games, websites, animations, videos, or even combinations of several types of media; some of our products are research articles. Contributions to these projects include ideas, art, code, scholarship and other types of effort.


The diverse natures of the different roles of those engaged in product design — as well as the varying degree of scholarship required for each product — raises several questions about how to give credit. This includes our thinking about how we note the role each collaborator plays, and the styles we use to be consistent across projects.


Style Guide for Names, Honorifics & Degrees

We give each contributor a voice in how they wish to be credited. Some may want a middle initial, a hyphenated last name, or their nickname rather than a full birth name. Before a product is launched, we ask contributors to review the credits to check for errors, and to change the way their name may be listed (or to provide clarification on the role they played).

Given that, we do seek some kind of consistency. Generally speaking, we use these guidelines:

  • Honorifics on screen name keys (such as the title that appears when a professor is talking in a video about her research), will be listed as Dr. First LastName.

  • Suffixes, such as PhD or EdD are included in the credits on the project, as well as certifications, such as RD (to indicate a registered dietician). So, for example, when she is on-screen, her name key may show her as Dr. Jeanne Gleason. In the credits, it would note her as Jeanne Gleason, PhD. Other degrees (such as master’s or bachelor’s degrees) are not included, unless it is a terminal degree relevant to the area of expertise (such as an MFA), or required certification for their work.

  • Titles are provided in context of the role each person takes in the production, and usually determined by that person. For example, when a researcher discusses a specific outcome of research, they might wish to validate their contributions by listing themselves as a Games Design Researcher, and, in other instances, note the role they play relevant to their role, such as Advisory Council Member.

Defining roles in production (games, animations, interactive programs, videos and software)


Our goal is to make sure that anyone who contributed to a product is recognized in the credits of that product. We try our best to note when someone has taken a lead role in their area, noting a lead artist as well as other contributing artists, for example. We also try our best to identify the role an individual plays in contributing to that product. We tend to think of contributions to our work in three areas: pre-production, design, and support.


Pre-Production Expertise

The first phase of any project is usually the preparation, or pre-production phase, so our credits generally start with that, noting the executive producer(s). Producers are responsible for enabling the project in the first place, and generally ensuring that the funding, production teams, facilities, and timelines are adequate. In short, the creative team may make the product, but without the executive producer, that product may never have been brought to the team. Content experts often define the need, and can bring the research expertise to inform the best approach, or necessary content to be included.


  • Executive Producers: Usually the head of our department, as well as any lead Project Director, or PD (sometimes called a Principal Investigator, or PI) on a grant which originated funding. Occasionally, it makes sense to list all of the project directors if they all contributed in some way to bringing the product to life. For example, our video projects often include the department head and the lead client as the executive producers.

  • Project Directors (PD) : If they have a role in creating the materials or determining the need for them, PDs or Co-PDs are listed in this section. These might be included as producers, or delineated as project directors/principal investigators, depending on the role they played on this specific product.

  • Content Experts: Often the academic advisors to a project, these researchers define the need and usually inform both the approach for a product as well as specific content.


Screenshot of the credits page of the Virtual Insect Collection Lab, listing contributors
Credits page for the Virtual Insect Collection Lab.

Design Expertise

Once a project is begun in the prep phases in our department, it moves into a design stage, and then production. For our team, it’s usually the same groups of people involved. In some products, an instructional designer will use research to determine what the product should be, how it will meet the needs, and the general approach. Most of the design and production team also take on instructional design responsibilities as part of their work, but we often list them related to their other areas of design. Our studio director usually takes the project through production, managing the design team of videographers, artists, programmers, editors, website developers or any other creative experts.

  • Instructional Designer: Takes responsibility for defining how the product will create the desired change in the user and guiding design of the overall tool.

  • Production Director or Producer: Manages production in the studio, including most of the production team and the timeline.

  • Artists, Programmers, Editors, Script Writers, Web Developers, and Videographers engage in each craft in either a lead or support role.

  • Narration, Translation, Acting: When these roles are filled, we include them.


Support Expertise

Throughout all phases, and after a product is completed, several team members play roles in conducting user testing, quality assurance, administrative or technical needs. We try hard to document these contributions, and to anticipate contributions that may be made after the release of a product, such as a research team or distribution and promotion.

  • User testing: Includes the research team engaging, documenting and ensuring compliance and that necessary changes were made. Where we can, we thank our testers in the Special Thanks section of the credits.

  • Studio support: So many people in our department play different roles – from supporting technology to making purchases to conducting hiring. We note everyone in our department that may have played any role in contributing to the final product.

  • Special thanks: When someone outside our department contributes in a meaningful way, we like to note that support. For example, participants that gave feedback on user testing sessions.


It may be worth noting that we never list contributors in our credits as “Pre Production Expertise”, “Design Expertise” or “Support Expertise”. These categories can be helpful, however, in reviewing a product to make sure everyone is included. For example, we might say, “Who else played a role in pre-production… in the design summits, thinking through the project or originating funding? Who were the designers on this project — the ones who had hands-on roles in creating the final product? Who else enabled this work or supported it?”


Also, it’s unrealistic to imagine every listing of credits will be the same from one project to the next. The priority is to give the proper credit to the right people, and offer a guide on how to do that. Where it doesn’t make sense to include the roles listed here, we want to have enough flexibility to meet the goals of accurately referencing the contributions of our team members.



© 2021 NMSU Board of Regents. All rights reserved. NMSU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. This material is based upon work supported by the SPECA Challenge Grant, National Institute of Food and Agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2018-38414-28610. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  NMSU does not discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, retaliation, serious medical condition, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, spousal affiliation or protected veteran status in its programs and activities as required by equal opportunity/affirmative action regulations and laws and university policy and rules. For more information please read the NMSU Notice of Non-discrimination. (opens in new window)  For web issues such as typos, broken links, or other technical problems with the site, please contact NMSU Innovative Media Research and Extension.
Example of a funding, EE and copyright statement.

Funding, EEO, and Copyright Statement

Many of our projects receive funding from grants, which often require certain statements and logos to be included. In addition to these, we note the copyright (always held by the NMSU Board of Regents for our products). As a public institution, NMSU also requires that we note the policy of the university regarding discrimination. The Equal Employer Opportunity (EEO) statement provides clarity on NMSU’s commitment to avoiding discrimination. Finally, we provide information on how users can request accommodations to use the product. Depending on the product, these statements are included in the credits, or may be included on the website housing the product.



Preparing Citations of Published Media Products

As the scholarly field accepts greater types of research-based media as evidence (and as more of our products become peer-reviewed) we have evolved the way we define authors of our published digital media. Because it is impossible to include all contributors in the list of authors, we define authors for citations based on the producer, and major content experts. We also include a note to review the full list of contributors as noted in the credits.

  1. Title: We list the title of the product, and then add the type of media in brackets following APA style. For example, the animation for Cation Exchange animation is titled “Cation Exchange”, but we list it as “Cation Exchange [Animation]” to help the reader know what kind of product it is.

  2. Authors: We list the main content lead (often our ‘client) as main author, the instructional designer or the lead producer as 2nd author. Other lead faculty and researchers who serve as content experts are then listed as authors ordered in terms of contribution. Generally, we do not list PDs or all CO-PDs on the funding grant unless they serve as content experts.

  3. Publisher and editor: Because we publish our own products when they go live, we list the department as the publisher, and the department head and project manager (or production director) as editors. We follow that with a note regarding a full list of contributors.

  4. When we are able to include an abstract with a notation we offer the funding statement. In “abstract”, include 1 sentence summary and the funding statement.


Example of our preferred citation for the Virtual Insect Collection Lab

The citation below includes information that would be included in our university's digital portfolio tool. This is our preferred way of referencing our own work, because it includes statements that acknowledge all contributors. The format would be adjusted when included as a reference in a published reference section.


Bundy, C. S., Chamberlin, B. A., Martinez, P. N., Bestelmeyer, S. V., Muise, A. S. (2022). In Jeanne Gleason and Adrian Agurre (Ed.), Virtual Insect Collection Interactive Program. Las Cruces, NM: NMSU Innovative Media, Research and Extension - Learning Games Lab (see program credits for full list of contributors). https://insectcollectionlab.nmsu.edu Type: Interactive Program


In this citation:

  • CS Bundy is the lead PI on the project

  • BA Chamberlin is the instructional designer and PN Martinez was the lead project manager.

  • SV Bestelmeyer and AS Muise served in content expertise roles.

  • Virtual Insect Collection Interactive Program is the title and the kind of product.

  • NMSU Innovative Media Research and Extension - Learning Games Lab is the publisher followed immediately with the statement about the credits

  • Type: Interactive program


Like many universities, we use a digital portfolio tool to track our publications. Data entered into the tool can then be exported into different formats (such as an academic vita or an annual review document. At one point, our university auto generated expertise guides for all faculty based on searches of content entered into the system. We asked for a publication type of “published digital media” to be added to the system, with a note to mark if it is one of our peer reviewed media products.


Conclusion

Credits can propose an interesting paradox: in including everybody, we sometimes fail to differentiate the level of contribution. On any given product, everyone doesn’t contribute at the same level. We choose to err on the side of including our partners: our hope is anyone who works on one of our products can see their effort included in the credits. For academic references and contributions, existing norms don’t allow for inclusion of all team members, so we try to include academics for whom the citation can contribute to their annual review or status as scholars.


Credits fill important roles: they meet legal obligations, but more importantly, they note the important people behind a project. In our Learning Games Lab, our youth are always impressed at the size of the team, and the variety of roles taken, in creating a video, animations, game or app. Showing who does the work is important and valuable, and it’s important to acknowledge a job well done.


Written by Barbara Chamberlin, PhD, Professor, Interim Department Head, Department of Innovative Media, Research & Extension.