Duquesne Professor Outs J.K. Rowling as Author Robert Galbraith

When recently asked by England's The Sunday Times to take on an authentication project to review the works of a few British authors, Duquesne University's Dr. Patrick Juola didn't hesitate. Little did he know that it would result in outing world-renowned author J.K. Rowling as the author of The Cuckoo's Calling, which she published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

And it took just 30 minutes.

"We've been working for about a decade on a program that analyzes text for authorial similarity. I was able to run four separate experiments that independently suggested that the author of The Cuckoo's Calling wrote very similarly to the author of The Casual Vacancy," said Juola. "This didn't prove that Rowling wrote it, of course, but it was very suggestive."

In addition to The Cuckoo's Calling, Juola reviewed Rowling's The Casual Vacancy, Ruth Rendell's The Saint Zita Society, P.D. James'The Private Patient and Val McDermid's The Wire in the Blood.

"The Sunday Times reporter, Cal Flyn, did a good job on the preliminary legwork.  She was able not only to identify Rowling as a potential author, but also to come up with a good set of other, similar, British crime writers to use for comparison," explained Juola. "The question then becomes, which author of the four is most like the author of Cuckoo? Rowling came up at or near the top for every variable I examined."

An associate professor of computer science at Duquesne University, Juola utilized software he developed for the Evaluating Variations in Language (EVL) Lab, which examines word usage and speech patterns to determine authorship across a range of fields.

Through their groundbreaking work in the EVL Lab, Juola and his team have already garnered billing as one of the world's top computing teams for authenticating authorship by the Plagiarism Action Network, for which it produced one of the highest overall accuracy records.

"There are a lot of applications for this work. We've done some work for the court system, for example, in trying to establish identity for immigration cases or in trying to establish the author of questioned documents," added Juola. "We've also worked on some literary cases, and the related startup-Juola & Associates-has been working with Drexel University on a DARPA-funded project to apply this technology to computer security."

In 2012, the National Endowment of the Humanities' Office of Digital Humanities provided a $50,000 grant to the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, which is working with Juola to authenticate early writings by Lincoln.

The EVL Lab supported in part by a $1.6 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation as well as funding from the NEH. Juola & Associates is supported in part by two grants from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim. 

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