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Wolfson College Academic Skills: Publishing your research

Help with finding, managing and using information from the Wolfson Library Team.

Why publish?

Researchers publish their work for many reasons: career progression, to enhance their reputation and that of their department or institution, to make a claim to an original contribution to knowledge, and to create a record of research by making it visible. 

The University's Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) is the best place to start when thinking about how to publish your research, whether as a traditional article, monograph, conference proceeding or through one of number of new online fora.

Below we highlight some of the main points you need to consider when thinking about publishing and provide links to more information. 

This material is based on a series of presentations made by Claire Sewell at the OSC, made available under CC:BY

What is Open Access?

OA research is freely available to the academic community and beyond. Outputs are equally accessible to all, irrespective of an institution’s ability to pay or whether an individual is a member of an institution. It can also mean that research is made available before coming out in a traditional journal format, thus sharing ideas more quickly and speeding up the creation of new knowledge.

As an author this increases exposure to your work on a global scale and across society, enabling practitioners to apply your findings. Significantly, many funders now require that your outputs are OA, so it’s worth knowing how you can comply with this while also reaping the benefits. 

Benefits of Open Access

Image of the benefits of Open Access

Elements of OA publishing

Green OA and is the preferred route for most academics. This includes depositing your work in an institutional or subject repository (see below for details) or publishing in a journal that is OA at point of publication. It is possible to impose an embargo on an article or manuscript to enable material to be deposited long before it is accessible to the public. 

There are other forms of OA publishing that require researchers, or their institution, to pay. This referred to as Gold OA, where the article stands out from others in a subscription journal by being freely available at the point of publication. If you want to pursue this route, you’ll need to think about how you’ll finance it.

While there are exceptions to what can be deposited and when, the overarching rule for articles is to upload them into a repository as soon as the have been accepted by a publisher. The Cambridge repository is called Apollo. To upload you need to set up a Symplectic account.  The Author Accepted Manuscript will look  slightly different to the final article but, crucially, the content will be the same. This process takes place before you’ve signed the Copyright Transfer Agreement with the publisher. You should read this document carefully to make sure that in publishing with that journal, you are not contravening a funder requirements (see below for more information). It is good practice to deposit your work and all journal and conference material submitted for the next Research Excellence Framework, will have to be available in this way..

If your work is funded by UK Research and Innovation or a charity, you will probably find that one of the conditions of receiving the money is that you are required to deposit your work in a repository. See SHERPA/JULIET for details of funders' requirements. 

Sometimes funder requirements and publisher copyright policies don't always agree. This is when an embargo can be used, so that you deposit your work but it isn't immediately visible. Use SHERPA/RoMEO for details of publisher policies.

OA Theses at Cambridge

From 1 October 2017 all PhD students are required to deposit their thesis in the University's repository, Apollo. This means that your thesis will be made Open Access. If it contains sensitive or restricted data, there are issues with third-party copyright, or you intend to publish the thesis, you may be able to apply for an embargo.

More information about preparing your thesis for OA is available from the OSC.

The publishing process

You need to consider:

  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What do your peers and supervisors consider to be important?
  • How long is the publication?
  • How much time do you have to produce it?
  • How soon do you want to be published?
  • Is there a cost involved?
  • Are you ready for rejection?

You may be publishing initial findings part-way through a project or the summary of a long-term venture. You may wish to rework your thesis into a monograph or divide it up and publish it as a series of journal articles (remember that the audiences are very different to that of your original work and both will need substantial reworking). Here are some pointers as to the different formats:


A book has a strong narrative argument and is connected to the wider literature in a field. To secure a contract you'll need a clear and descriptive title, information about the scope, aims and originality of the work, target audience (which fits with your content but also matches the reach of the publisher), a detailed table of contents, possible a sample chapter or two, and a bibliography. The time for proposing, writing, reviewing and publishing can be long and protracted. However, there are some publishers, such as Palgrave Pivot and CUP's Elements series, which publish shorter texts (22-50,000 words) in a much shorter turnaround of approximately 12 weeks.

Journal article

These have a tighter focus on a couple of key ideas. they are shorter in length and so have a quicker turnaround, although the process can still take many months from start to finish. They are evidence-based and research informed, contextualised by wider literature. The audience will almost always be academic and so less room is given to explaining known concepts.


There are many other ways of communicating your research which may be more suitable depending on the impact you want to make and with which audience: conference proceedings, news and magazine articles, reports, blogs


Peer review is a quality control measure put in place by publishers to ensure that research is relevant, sound, original and clearly communicated. 

Reviewers will assess your work and either accept it, ask you to revise and resubmit, or reject it. Most reviewers will always make suggestions for improvements to style or to incorporate wider literature.

To avoid immediate rejection:

  • Check author guidelines supplied by the publisher. This includes styles of referencing and standardised spellings.
  • Reread for general spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • Look at the structure and flow of argument

Read this guide all about 'Demystifying Peer Review' or watch this short film to find out more.


If you are interesting in becoming a reviewer, PLoS (Public Library of Science) has an excellent set of resources available on their Reviewer Center

Look at:

  • Scope of what they have previously published
  • If you work fits with a particular book series
  • Format - electronic and/or hard copy
  • Timing of process
  • Charges for Open Access
  • Reputation in your field - you can ask peers or look at metrics to assess how often something in that publication is cited.
Read this guide about 'Choosing a Publisher'.

It is worth highlighting that some unscrupulous publishers use OA to solicit money, praying on (often early-career) researchers' needs to get published.

'Predatory publishers' promise an OA publication in return for a fee and often solicit content for their journals by email, rather than you submitting an article to them. This might seem flattering but there are many negative impacts to your and research in general.

They promise services such as peer review, but don't deliver, and as a result their publications will be thought of unfavourably, perpetuating poor research and writing. You will have to sign away your copyright and you cannot then publish that article elsewhere, with a more reputable publisher. Your reputation may be tainted by association.

Develop a publishing strategy in conjunction with peers and your supervisor and discuss potential targets for your publications. If you need to get something published quickly, then a journal with pay-to-publish model may need to play a role in that. But do balance that with any impact it may have on your academic reputation.


The university won't advise you about where to publish but here a useful checklist to guard against predatory publishers

  • Transparency - what are they telling you?
  • Fees - what are they for? are they justified?
  • Copyright - what can do you do after publication?
  • Peer review - is it?
  • Editorial Board - who is on the board? do they list this on their web profile?
  • Association membership
  • Website quality and information
  • Indexing - which databases do they appear in?
  • Quality of previous publications

Image credit:

Read this guide to learn more about 'How to Spot Predatory Publishers' or watch this film.


Claiming your work - ORCiD

You may have noticed entries in your bibliography relating to the same person, but where their name appears differently. The may have a first name and surname, or an initial and surname, or a first name, initial and surname. This can make it difficult for you to track their publications and for the author to track their citations.

An ORCiD gets around this problem. This is a unique number that belongs to you and moves with you through your career, regardless of whether you change you name or it is printed differently by a publisher.


Promoting your research

It is important not just to publish your work through traditional routes, but also to promote it from an academic perspective as more exposure often leads to higher citation rates and it can help find collaborators for future work. In addition it lets people know about the work beyond academia, increasing the impact of your work. This is taken very seriously by universities as it is a significant elements of the REF. If you are thinking of involving the media, contact the University's Communications Team.

Ways to promote your work:

  • in-house publications such as Research Horizons or Spotlight
  • news pages on your departmental or university website
  • talk at conferences and network with delegates
  • publish a blog entry
  • link to this, a news item or location in a repository in your email signature
  • tweet about it 
  • non-academic platforms such The Conversation
  • hold workshops with stakeholders
  • be visual - are there any photographs you can share or could you produce an infographic from the research?

However, when using social media consider whether you will be able to keep it updated (such a blog or twitter feed), does it impact on the credibility of your research, does it infringe copyright to reveal the findings in this way, and are you likely to receive Spam because of it? If you're keen to expand your presence online, have a look at our 'Developing a digital footprint' tab.

Download our Academic Skills Publishing Your Research Guide


Unless otherwise stated, this work is licenced under a CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence by Wolfson College Cambridge.

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