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Home Research Guides Academic Publishing and Author's Rights

Academic Publishing and Author's Rights


This guide has been designed to offer introductory information and support for researchers new to academic publishing. Inside you will find:

  • Strategies and tools for identifying appropriate journals to publish in
  • Tips and tricks for detecting predatory publishers
  • Introductory information about copyright and open access
  • Information about authors' rights


Strategies for Finding Journals

Asking your advisor for suggestions is a great place to start, but here are some other ways to determine which journals you could publish in:

  • Look on a journal's website for an instructions for authors page. It should have information about the scope of the journal, article types accepted, formatting, submission and peer-review requirements. For an example of such a page click here and here.
  • Browse a journal to find out who else is publishing in it, what institutions they are from and what types of research are represented. To browse a journal that the library has, follow the instructions in this tutorial
  • If the library does not have access to a journal you are interested in, request a copy using interlibrary loan
  • Try the new Endnote match feature. Simply type in your article title and abstract and let Endnote find you likely journals to publish in.

Tools for Evaluating Journals

Journal Citation Reports

There are a number of ways to learn more about how influencial a particular journal is. One of the most common is the impact factor from Journal Citation Reports (JCR).  Click here for more information about how impact factors are determined.

Use JCR to evaluate the influence of journals in a disciplinary area or look up a single journal. JCR is strongest in the sciences and social sciences. Different disciplines have very different impact factor ranges and what is bad in one discipline may be great in another.

Cabell's Directories

This database contains information about acceptance rates, time to print, percentage of invited papers and impact factors when available. NDSU's subscription to Cabell's covers all aspects of business, finance, education, psychology, and nursing. It can be searched by journal name or used to browse a disciplinary area.

SCImago Journal Rank

This database uses the H-index and SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) to indicate a journal's influence. SCImago has broad coverage including sciences, medicine, arts, humanities and the social sciences. Click here to access the SCImago database.

Google Scholar Metrics

Google Scholar Metrics is a quick and easy way to assess the influence of recent articles in scholarly publications. You can browse collections of journals or look up specific titles. For more information about Metrics click here .

Predatory Publishing

Identifying Predatory Publishers

Unfortunately, the proliferation of online journals has allowed for some bad actors to make a profit by taking advantage of researchers' desire (and need) to publish. These are sometimes called predatory publishers and researchers should take care to avoid them.

What should I be looking out for?

More evaluation criteria can be found here.

Author's Rights

What is copyright?

Copyright is the legal right to control the work you created including the rights to:

  • sell
  • publish
  • distribute
  • provide access to
  • modify
  • put restrictions on use

Copyright is automatically conferred when the work has been written down, recorded, painted, sculpted, or saved to a hard drive amongst many examples.

You retain these rights unless you transfer some or all of those rights when you sign a publishing agreement. For more information visit SPARC's Introduction to Copyright Resources for Authors .

What are your rights?

Publishers vary greatly on the level of rights they allow authors to retain over their own work. Many demand a complete transfer of copyright while others allow authors to retain some rights. Knowing what rights you will retain or can request is increasingly important with new mandated reporting requirements and because of the varied uses authors may want to make of their work in the digital environment.

Here are a couple of ways to learn about what rights different publishers grant authors:

  • A simple Google search for authors rights journals will retrieve links to many of the major journal publishers authors' rights information to give you an idea of the range of contracts that are available. Search for the specific journal if you already have one in mind.
  • Sherpa/Romeo is a database of publisher's policies about what rights authors retain for self-archiving their work. Sherpa/Romeo also has information about publishers compliance with different funder's mandates.

You do retain a right to negotiate with a publisher in order to keep the publishing rights you need. This is called an "author's addendum" . For more information read the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition's the SPARC Author Addendum .

Open Access

Open Access Primer

Open access (OA) refers to materials that are online, digital, free of charge for users and (usually) free of most copyright/licensing restrictions. In the context of academic publishing, open access articles are free for users to access, read, link to, download and distribute (ex. upload to Black Board or reproduce for a class). There are both advantages and disadvantages to publishing your research open access.


  • Distribution of your research will be faster and further reaching
  • Your work will remain accessible even if you change institutions or leave academia
  • Depositing your work in a institutional repository preserves it and ensures it stays findable online
  • Federally funded research now needs to be made available to all
  • There is an inherent good in sharing knowledge


  • Promotion and tenure guidelines often focus on premier print journals
  • Newer OA journals have lower impact factors
  • Some people still believe that free = poor quality
  • OA is free for the user but journals usually charge the author an "article processing fee", a submission fee or a fee to make the work OA at all.

For a quick primer about Open Access, view the NDSU Libraries' Open Access Tutorial . For a more in-depth explanation, read Peter Suber's Open Access Overview . To learn more about how research libraries are addressing and advocating for issues around open access in academia visit the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition

For more information about open access please see the NDSU Libraries' Open Access Toolkit.

Mandated Reporting

Federal agencies are increasingly putting forth plans and requirements to insure that the research they fund is publically accessible. These agencies include the U.S.D.A., the N.I.H. and the N.S.F. and the F.D.A. Click here to access a list of public access plans from federal institutions.

Congress is currently discussing adoption of The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2015. The full text can be read here .


Common terms in academic publishing

Copyright: A legal device that gives the creator of an original work in any format the sole right to publish and sell that work. Copyright owners have the right to control the reproduction of their work, including the right to receive payment for that reproduction. An author may grant or sell those rights to others, including publishers or recording companies.

Creative Commons (CC): An organization which offers standardized copyright licenses which work along-side traditional copyright to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses are the types ordinarily used for open access publishing. See:

Embargo: A time period after publication in which an article, journal or book is not openly available unless you pay for it or otherwise have a subscription. This time period can vary from a month to over a year depending on the publication. The purpose of embargoes are to protect publisher's revenues.

Impact factor: A measurement used to assess the influence of a particular journal in a specific discipline. See Journal Citation Reports to access impact factors for specific journals or disciplines.

Institutional Repository (IR): An online, searchable, web-accessible database containing the scholarly work of the researchers of an institution. IR's make researcher's work easier to find and access and also help preserve digital materials. See NDSU's IR here:

Open Access (OA): Refers to original works in any online digital format (text, images, video etc...) that the creator has made available for free and available for use (such as linking, sharing, downloading) with limited or no copyright and licensing restrictions. In the scholarly context, OA refers to the free, immediate online availability of research articles along with right for everyone to use those articles fully in the digital environment.

Peer-Reviewed (also called refereed): The evaluation of work submitted for publication by one or more people who possess similar competence and familiarity with the research as the author. Ideally, this process will insure that the research that gets published is accurate, well executed and of high quality.

Post-print: A scholarly article in its final form after the peer-review process but before actual publication. Also called an accepted manuscript or author's final manuscript.

Predatory Publishing: An exploitative publishing model which commonly sends spam emails to potential authors, solicits submissions and requests payment of article processing charges, but lacks any discernible scholarship, academic rigor or credibility.

Pre-print: A scholarly article that has not yet been peer-reviewed. Also called a working paper.

Publisher's Version: The final published article. This is the version that appears in a journal and which you can access through academic databases. Also called the version of record.

Self-archiving: Placing a copy of an article (or other creative work) in a digital repository.