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Academic Publishing: How It Works and Where You Fit

An introduction to the industry of academic publishing, how it came to be, and how it works now.

Glossary of Academic Research and Library Terms

Academic database

Organized collection of information commonly used for research, often available only by subscription.


A reference or footnote in a document to a book, a magazine or journal article, or another source. It contains all the information necessary to identify and locate the work, including author, title, publisher, date, volume, issue number, and pages. 

Related terms
Citation management tool

A software program that helps collect, organize and cite bibliographic metadata for articles, books, websites, reports, and other items.

Citation style

The exact formatting of a citation, usually based on discipline standards.


“A list (as of bibliographical information or citations to a body of literature) arranged usually in alphabetical order of some specified datum (such as author, subject, or keyword).” (Source: Merriam-Webster)

Interlibrary loan (ILL)

A cooperative agreement among participating libraries in which the libraries borrow from each other (the prefix inter- meaning "between") on behalf of their patrons. Patrons can request books, digital articles (though what's usually referred to as Document Delivery), and occasionally other materials through ILL.


A word or term that helps you find more information on the subject of that term.


The collective term for the scholarly publications that report original empirical and theoretical work within an academic field.

Peer review

An editorial process characteristic of scholarly research in which experts in a field, sometimes called referees, are assigned to review and evaluate submitted article drafts (known as manuscripts). Peer review is meant to ensure that published literature is credible and adds something useful to the understanding of the topic.

Peer reviewers, who generally work voluntarily, seek to ensure the article includes a thorough background, accurately utilized methods, and supportable conclusions. Reviewing often occurs semi-anonymously, in which the reviewer is aware of the author's identity but the reviewer's identity is kept hidden from the author, or fully anonymously, in which neither the reviewer nor the author are aware of the other's identity. Following the submitted reviews, the author then revises their draft accordingly before it's accepted for publication. Following the submitted reviews, the author then revises their draft accordingly before it's accepted for publication.

Note: While peer-reviewed journals are scholarly sources, not all scholarly journals are peer-reviewed. See Is It Peer-Reviewed? for guidance on determining a scholarly journal's peer review status.

Popular publication

Type of source written for the general public, usually by trained journalists. Publication types include newspapers and magazines.

Preprint and postprint

A preprint is an author's completed article, submitted to a journal, but one that has not yet been peer-reviewed or finalized for publication. Sometimes found on preprint servers or repositories. Once an article has gone through peer review but is not yet formatted for publication, it is known as a postprint.

In research, it's preferable to cite the published article, also known as the version of record, rather than a preprint or postprint to ensure accurate representation of the research.


A journal article that has been withdrawn from publication as a result of issues such as plagiarism, research misconduct, or author error.

Scholarly publication

Type of source that include original academic research and review articles usually published following peer review. Publication types include scholarly journals, conference proceedings, and books.

Note that the terms "academic" and "scholarly" are synonyms so these publications are also referred to as "academic journals."

Search string

The combination of keywords and search strategies that allow for more accurate information retrieval in databases and other sources.

Style guide

Rules for writing and presenting text written by a publisher or organization in a particular discipline to establish uniform practices for all documents produced by that publisher or within that discipline.

Trade publication

Type of source that includes articles and news written for and by people who work in the field. Also known as "professional." Publication types include magazines and journals.

Version of record

The final published version of a research article, following peer review and formatting. It is best to cite this version of the research rather than the preprint or postprint (see above) as it ensures a more accurate representation of the content as well as an easier means of directly citing the text, due to the publication formatting.


Some entries adapted from: Library Glossary (Benedictine University, via; Glossary of Library Terms (Davidson College); Cambridge Dictionary