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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The ISFDB lets its users verify publication records against physical/electronic copies of books/magazines and against recognized bibliographic sources. The former are known as "primary verifications" while the latter are known as "secondary verifications".

How to verify

Primary Verification

If you have a copy of a publication that exists in the ISFDB database, you can verify it as follows:

  • Display the publication record. If it's a new publication which you previously created, skip the following two steps and go to the verification step. Otherwise examine the publication record carefully.
  • Check that you have the same edition and the same printing of the book as the one currently in the database. Make sure to check the "line number" on the copyright page, the price and the cover art. Also check how the authors are credited on the title pages and whether the page numbers match. If the existing ISFDB record and your book are different, it can mean one of three things:
    • You have a different printing. If you determine that this is the case, do not verify the existing record. Create a new publication record and then verify it.
    • The ISFDB publication record is in error and has been verified by an editor. If so, check with the verifier to see if the record needs to be corrected.
    • The ISFDB publication record is in error and has not been verified by an editor. If you determine that this is the case, edit the publication record. Wait for the submission to be approved, then verify the corrected record. If in doubt, ask on the Community Portal or on the ISFDB:Verification requests page.
  • Once you make sure that your publication matches what is in the database, click the "Verify this Pub" link in the navigation bar on the left. This will display the "Verify Publication" page, which consists of two sections.
  • Under "Primary Verification Status" it will say "Currently not verified by you. You can add one of the following" and display two radio buttons, one for "Permanent verification" and one for "Transient verification". Select "Permanent verification" if you own the book. Select "Transient verification" if you have access to the book temporarily, e.g. you got it from a library. Click the "Verify" button. This will immediately mark the record as verified; there is no moderator approval required for verifications.

Secondary Verification

The bottom section of the "Verify Publication" page displays the current status of "Secondary Verifications" for the selected publication.

If you have a copy of one or more of the bibliographic sources recognized by the ISFDB, you can check the information in those sources 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.

Make sure that the ISFDB data matches what each source lists. If there are no discrepancies, click the radio button in the "Verified" column for the source that you checked. If the source doesn't have information for the selected record, click the radio button in the "Marked N/A" column.

Once you have consulted all of the sources that you have access to, click the "Update Secondary Verifications" button and the verification information will be updated immediately. No moderator approval is required.

Secondary verification sources

These are the bibliographic references that ISFDB recognizes as sources for secondary verifications:

Reference Description
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)
Bleiler78 The Checklist of Science-Fiction and Supernatural Fiction (1978)
OCLC/Worldcat OCLC/Worldcat (on-line database of library records)
Bleiler Early Years Richard Bleiler and Everett F. Bleiler. Science-Fiction: The Early Years (1991)

How to remove an invalid secondary verification

If you verified a publication using a secondary verification source and later discovered that the verification was in error, you can go back to the verification page and remove the verification yourself.

If you discover that a secondary verification performed by another editor is invalid, you won't be able to remove it. You will need to post on ISFDB:Moderator noticeboard and a moderator will remove it using moderator-only tools.

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

See How to change verified publications

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.