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 Open Research office 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. Much of the information refers to Open Access publishing. More information on that is available half way down the page.
This material is based on a series of presentations made by Claire Sewell at the OSC, made available under CC:BY and material on the OSC website.
You need to consider:
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.
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 (if not years) 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. The most highly regarded journals are subject to strict peer-review processes.
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 and podcasts.
Every publisher and journal will have a different focus. Check publisher webpages; they will be clear about what they are looking for. Look at:
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 for its contributions and quality. They have to idenitfy whether it fits with the aims of the journal or book publisher. Their report will either accept it (usually with minor revisions), 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:
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.
Feedback from reviewers
It can be very hard to take criticism from your reviewers, so be kind to yourself and try not to take it personally. If you get an outright rejection but feel that you have a publishable article, try another journal. If you are invited to revise and resubmit your article, make a plan for your revisions: what are they asking you to write, read or think about? You may not be able to incorporate everything but you will have to explain why in your cover letter/response. There may be contradicitions, so you can't act on every recommendation but they will no doubt be helpful even if they help you justify why you've made a particular arguement or used a particular method.
'Predatory publishers' promise an Open Access 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
Image credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/rVRrd1uG17k
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.
The SAP came into effect from 1 April 2023. This is a cost-effective route to make the accepted version of your paper open access without embargo. It applies to peer-reviewed research articles accepted for final publication in a journal, conference proceeding or publishing platform.
It enables the University to disseminate research and scholarship as widely as possible to:
It aims to achieve this whilst enabling researchers to publish their work in a journal of their choice. It applies to anyone engaged in research activities including employees, contractors, research fellows and research students. You can opt out but expected to follow alternative OA route e.g. Gold Open Access (paid).
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 they 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 or publisher requirements.
It is good practice to deposit your work and all journal and conference material submitted for the Research Excellence Framework, has 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.
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 to find out what is required by funders and OA policies for different publishers or journal titles.
An alternative to ‘green’ open access (self archiving of the accepted manuscript), is to make a paper immediately open access on publication. This is called ‘gold’ open access, and publishers charge to make articles 'gold' open access (via an Article Processing Charge, or APC).
The amount that publishers charge for gold open access varies considerably, from nothing to nearly £10,000. The average APC the Open Access Service paid in 2021 was £1,646 (including VAT), although individual APCs range from as much as £9,952 to as little as £1,150. Information on the APC charged by a particular journal will be displayed on the publisher's website, usually in their open access section.
The University of Cambridge offers support to its researchers in the following ways:
The SAP supplements the University’s Intellectual Property Policy. In brief this separates out IP for patents and IP for all other research results:
The University shall have the initial right to apply throughout the world for a patent for an invention. Other intellectual property rights belong to the University Researcher who creates the results.
The entitlement to intellectual property rights in material created by a student rest with the student, except where a student:
If you are funded, find out whether this affects you.
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.
You may have noticed entries in your bibliography relating to the same person, but where their name appears differently. They may have a first name and surname, or an initial and surname, or a first name, initial and surname; they may have changed name during their career. 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.
It is important not just to publish your work through traditional routes, but also to promote it to a wider audience 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 element of the REF. If you are thinking of involving the media, contact the University's Communications Team.
Ways to promote your work:
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.