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GR ST 529: Preparing Publishable Thesis Chapters

Writing support for graduate students

Know Your Rights!

For years, the traditional publishing model has required that potential authors sign over the copyright of their article to their publisher as a "normal" part of the publication process. This can severely limit your rights over your own work, such as whether you can share a copy of it in an online Digital Repository (self-archive) or reuse figures you created in future works. 

As an author, consider your rights when you're looking for suitable journals for your article. Important questions to ask:

  • Who will retain copyright of your article - you or the journal publisher? Do you have a choice?
  • What are you allowed to do with your article once it's published?
  • If you post it in an institutional repository or on a site like arXiv, will you be infringing the copyright of your own work?

Do you have a choice?  Yes, you certainly do! You can negotiate over retaining copyright before you sign your publishing contract. You can search for a different journal - perhaps an Open Access journal - that better meets your needs. Finally, you can also look up prospective journals to learn more about their archiving policy for sharing a copy of your publication in an online repository. Here's how to find this information:

SHERPA / RoMEO is a unique database that helps you know what rights specific journals will allow you as author to retain!


Just search your journal by name or ISSN in SHERPA / RoMEO.  You'll quickly see if you can retain copyright, and which version(s) of your work (pre-print, post-print, publisher's version) you can post ("self-archive") and where, plus any special conditions you'll need to follow.

You can use the information you find to guide your decision on which journals to choose for your publications.

Open Access Journals

Open Access, "the free, immediate, online availability of research articles," is another option for authors who want to keep their copyright over their work. There are two paths to Open Access (OA): the gold route (OA publishing) and the green route (Self-Archiving). We've already covered the green route above, but what about OA journals?

There are many high-quality open access journals you may want to consider, depending on your subject area. Listed below are a few directories that list available OA journals:

Publication Fees

The goal of Open Access journals is to make scholarly information available to readers for free. To make up for this and to cover costs, some (but not all) Open Access journals charge authors fees to publish.

Reputable open access journals will be transparent about these fees. Do your research so you know from the beginning what might be involved. ISU does offer some discounts for publishing fees through memberships with select journals:

Your Librarian

Abbey Elder's picture
Abbey Elder
150 Parks Library
Iowa State University