Computational Forensic Authorship Analysis: Promises and Pitfalls


  • Shlomo Engelson Argamon


The authorship of questioned documents often constitutes important
evidence in criminal and civil cases. Linguistic stylistic analysis can often help to
determine authorship. Computational methods have been applied to authorship
analysis in academia for decades, and in recent years have achieved the levels
of reliability needed for application to real-world cases. This article surveys the
dierent types of computational authorship analysis methods and their components
in a practical vein—describing the assumptions each makes, the analytic
controls they require, and the tests needed to measure and ensure their reliability.
Specically, I discuss many of the potential pitfalls in their application, to
guide practitioners in more eectively achieving trustworthy and understandable
results. It must always be remembered, though, that there is no substitute for expertise, experience, and careful human judgment.