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Academic Publishing Demystified

This guide has been developed specifically for graduate students who wish to learn more about academic publishing.

Where to publish?

There are many things to consider when choosing a venue to publish your work: you want to ensure a good fit, a broad reach, and significant impact.  It is your responsibility to carefully evaluate the reputation of a journal and its publisher before submitting an article for publication, or agreeing to provide peer review services.

This page features tools and guides to help you evaluate issues relating to scholarly journals such as aims and scope, publishing characteristics, reputability, and appropriateness.  Please also consult the predatory publishing page to ensure that you're submitting your work to a legitimate venue.

Choosing a Suitable Publication Venue

Finding a venue: Your questions answered

Before you submit your work to any particular venue, it's important to do your homework. Here is some information to answer some of your questions.

How do I find a venue that is a good match for my paper?
There is no one way to do this, but here are some suggestions!

  • Ask your supervisor and peers for suggestions.
  • Search for articles with similar key words in a library database - look at which journals show up more frequently. Similarly, look at venues that you have cited in your own work.
  • Read abstracts from past few years to get a sense of what a potential venue publishes.
  • When in doubt contact the editorial board with an abstract for your paper and ask for their feedback.
  • Ensure that your preferred venue is reputable. For more information, check our page on predatory publishers.

How to I ensure my paper meets the venue's guidelines?
All venues will have submission guidelines that should be clear and easy to follow. These guidelines will cover issues such as appropriate subject matter for the journal, types of articles that are accepted, length and structure of articles, bibliographic style, and more. 

How do I know how long it will take?
There are many factors that influence the speed of publication. The biggest of these is the editorial and peer review process that will impact whether or not your submission will be accepted at all. You can read more about that on our page on peer review. However, some basic things to check are: is the venue currently accepting submissions; does the journal publish scheduled issues, or on a rolling basis (a rolling basis may offer a quicker turnaround time); and, does the journal advertise an average time from submission to decision?

What is the difference between and Open Access journal and a subscription journal?
Subscription journals can only be read by individuals or institutions who pay to maintain a subscription to their content (or pay to access an individual paper), whereas Open Access journal articles are freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

Some subscription journals allow authors to pay a fee to make an individual article openly accessible, and most permit some form of self-archiving. To learn more about these terms, and your options as an author, check our scholarly communications guide.

Do I have to transfer my copyright?
As a graduate student, you own the copyright to the academic work you create. If you author a collaborative piece, you and your co-authors jointly own the copyright. Most subscription journals will request that authors transfer their copyright to the publisher prior to publication. Most open access journals will not make this request. Transferring your copyright to a publisher will impact your ability to use your work in the future. Learn more about this issue on our author rights page.

Will I have to pay money to publish?
It is important to investigate whether your preferred venue charges fees for any of its services. Some journals charge fees for colour figures, for immediate Open Access, or other services. The University of Calgary maintains discounts with some publishers for Open Access fees.

I don't want to publish in an academic venue! What are my options?
There are so many options! You could consider co-authoring, with a supervisor, a piece in the Conversation, a venue for research-based analysis written for a general audience. The Knowledge Exchange Office at the University of Calgary is also a good place to learn more.

Tools for evaluating fit and impact


Unless otherwise noted, content is this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License