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The Publishing Process and Opportunities

a resource guide to help graduate students and faculty understand the publishing process and discover publishing opportunities

Understanding Open Access

What is Open Access (OA)?

The best ideas remain just that until they are shared and can by utilized by others. Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.

  • OA is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
  • Authors are still covered by copyright law, but OA terms apply to allow sharing and reuse.
  • Open Access is compatible with the features and services of scholarly literature and communication, including
    • copyright
    • peer review
    • indexing
    • preservation
    • prestige
    • quality
    • career advancement
  • Open Access does not mean an "open door" for publication. All major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on the importance of peer review.

- Adapted from Peter Suber's A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access


What are Author Rights?

As soon as you begin creating a scholarly work in fixed medium, it is covered under copyright law and no other actions are necessary for it to be protected. However, when you sign a contract to publish that work, you may be asked to transfer your copyright. Some academic publishers may require that authors sign away the rights to their work but this does not have to be the case. Authors can retain rights in several ways; negotiating the author's addendum to the traditional scholarly contract, publishing under a Creative Commons license, and other open access alternatives.

  • You own what you create. As author of a work you are automatically the copyright holder. Copyright registration is not required.
  • You retain your copyright unless you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement, such as a journal publisher.
  • The copyright holder controls the work.
  • Transferring copyright does not have to be "all or nothing."
  • Your assignment of rights to publisher's could hinder your future uses of your work.

Learn what to look for in a publication agreement

Author Rights Resources

Publisher Policies

Below are links to the general copyright and archiving policies for major publishers. If your publisher is not included in the list, search SHERPA/RoMEO or consult the publisher's website.


Why Should I Publish in an OA Journal?

Open Access lowers permissions and price barriers between your research and potential readers. Thereby enabling access by researchers unlikely or unable to subscribe to a specialty publication,  to teachers, students, and the general public. 

Search for journals related to your subject in the Directory of Open Access Journals (link below). More and more traditional publishers such as Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, and society journals have Open Access journals. Visit publisher websites to see which OA options they offer before selecting a more traditional journal title that does not provide easy access to its content.

Unfortunately, while Open Access is a wonderful platform, predatory OA journals have appeared as well. These are journals more interested in collecting author's OA fees than in publishing and reviewing high quality content. Refer to the Predatory Publishers tab for more information as well as check the Cabell's Blacklist (see link below) for predatory journal titles.

Where Can I Find an Open Access Journal to Publish In?

What are Open Access Author Fees?

One of the models for supporting open access publishing is the use of author's fees, sometimes also called article processing charges. Under this model, for a fee, an author can publish their work openly, permitting unpaid access to research results and scholarly literature. The author's fee model allows publishers to cover the cost of scholarly publishing without charging its readers, while also making content available to a far broader, more diverse audience. The author's fee model is used by many scientific or hybrid journals, but not all, open access publications. The OA options available from publishers can be found at the SHERPA/RoMEO database.


Archiving in a repository helps make your research more discoverable and contributes to Open Access. The University digital repository, UDigital Commons, is managed by the Access Services Librarian, Charlotte Vandervoort, and the Archivist Librarian, Shelley Gayler-Smith, please contact them for more information about adding your article to the repository. Links to Open Access repositories as well as UDigital Commons are found below.

General Open Access Repositories

  • figshare A general repository to upload any research materials; papers, datasets, posters, videos, etc. Every deposited item receives a digital object identifier.

Humanities Open Access Repositories

  • ARK-Dok A repository for art history research.
  • PhilPapers A repository for philosophy research

Science Open Access Repositories

  • arXiv A repository for pre-prints (version that is submitted to a journal) of scientific papers in physics, mathematics, astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology, and statistics.
  • Earth-Prints A repository for earth science research.
  • Open Science Framework Provides a general repository for all disciplines, including the humanities and social sciences. Manage projects, share files, control access and collaboration, archive data, and view project analytics.
  • Zenodo General repository to share and preserve research outputs in any format, from any science discipline.

Social Science Open Access Repositories

Addendum - A legal document that describes additional terms to a prior agreement. It must be signed by both parties and incorporated as a part of the prior agreement.

Author rights/literary rights - Synonyms for copyright. Neither term has any legal significance.

Copyright - A legal protection for creative intellectual property works.

Copyright license - An agreement to permit another party to use all or some of their copyrights. Typically for a limited duration. E.g., Copyright owners should license to publishers the rights to copy and distribute their work so it can be disseminated in a professional publication, while they simultaneously retain their copyrights so they may also use their work.

Copyright transfer - A complete relinquishment of rights from one party to another. E.g., Many publishers prefer a complete copyright transfer so the publisher can use the work as they desire.

Embargo - A period of time in which an author or publisher prohibits the other party from making the underlying work publicly available.

Exclusive license -  An agreement permitting only one other party to use all or some of a copyright owner's rights. Typically for a limited duration. E.g., Publishers often prefer an exclusive license, which gives them the right to be the only party to engage in certain activities such as reproduction and distribution.

Irrevocable license - An agreement that cannot be changed or terminated. E.g., Most publishers prefer an irrevocable license because it ensures they can continue to engage in the rights granted to them in perpetuity.

Non-exclusive license - An agreement permitting one or more parties to use all or some of a copyright owner's rights.Typically for a limited duration. E.g., A copyright owner may enter into multiple non-exclusive licenses with multiple parties such that Party A has a license to copy and distribute for one year, but Party B has a license to copy, distribute, and publicly perform for three years.

Preprint - The author's final draft of a publication, before it undergoes peer review.

Postprint - The author's final draft of an accepted publication, including all changes made as a result of the peer review process, but before publisher copy editing and formating.

Revocable - An agreement that can be changed or terminated. E.g., Most authors should seek revocable licenses with publishers because it ensures the authors can end an agreement and retain the rights they licensed to a publisher.

Congratulations! Your latest research ahs been accepted for publication in a prestigious journal, but before you sign the publisher agreement, are you retaining the necessary rights under copyright to use your work?

As the author of a work, you are the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in signed agreement. An author who has transferred copyright without retaining any rights may not be able to place the work on course web sites, copy it for students or colleagues, deposit it in digital repositories,or reuse portions in a subsequent work.

Your Basic Rights as an Author

  • The right to reproduce the work, for example through scanning and photocopying.
  • The right to prepare derivative works, including translations.
  • The right to distribute the work to others via a license, sale, or other means.
  • The right to display or perform the work publicly.
  • The right to let others exercise any of these rights.

What are your Options when Presented with a Publisher's Agreement?

  1. Transfer all of your rights to the publisher.
  2. Transfer the copyright to the publisher but retain certain rights.
  3. Retain all of your rights and license the rights to the publisher.

Note - No matter which option you choose, it is important to read the document carefully. Authors can make changes to any agreement in order to retain certain rights. The Science Commons Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine allows authors to retain the necessary rights to reuse their research. After you have entered your name, article title, journal, publisher, and selected the type of agreement, the engine automatically generates an addendum that be attached to the original agreement. If you receive a negative response from the publisher after submitting the addendum, explain why it is important to retain the rights to your work and how you plan to use the research. You should also consider publishing in an open access journal. Remember if in doubt, consult the University General Counsel before signing any contract.

Questions to Consider Before Signing  a Publisher Agreement

  • Would you like to send copies of the article to colleagues?
  • Do you want to post a copy on your course Web site or LMS?
  • Do you want to include a copy with your online CV?
  • Do you wan to deposit a copy in a digital repository?
  • Do you want to publish a translation of te article in another language?
  • Do you want to distribute copies for a a conference presentation?
  • Do you want to assign it as a reading to students?

 What is Creative Commons?

(from the Creative Commons website)

"Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work - on conditions of your choice; CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of "all rights reserved" to "some rights reserved."  Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify copyright terms to best suit your needs."

When you create something, you already have the copyright, but you can add the Creative Commons license layer to that work. YOU ARE NOT giving up the copyright with a Creative Commons license, but are specifically modifying your copyright to communicate to others how they can use your work.

There are six Creative Commons licenses, each indicate the use parameters granted by the content creator.

  • Attribution only or CC-BY License
  • Attribution-ShareAlike or CC BY-SA
  • Attribution-NonCommercial or CC BY-NC
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike or CC BY-NC-SA
  • Attribution-NoDerivs or CC BY-ND
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs or CC BY-NC-ND

Use the Infographic and the examples below to help learn more about which Creative Commons license to use and when.

  • Are you okay with someone using your work for any purpose (classroom teaching, translation, sharing online), but do not want them to be able to use it commercially? CC-BY-NC is probably the right license for you.
  • Do you want to allow others to copy, distribute, remix, or perform your work without restrictions? Use CC-BY
  • Perhaps you are okay with your research being reproduced, distributed, and shared, but do not want it to be translated or used for commercial purposes. Then CC-BY-ND is the right license to choose.

Disclaimer: The information on Creative Commons Licensing should be read for informational purposes only. This subject guide and its resources do not constitute legal advice.


This guide was adapted from and used with permission from the Cowan-Blakley Memorial Library at Dallas University.