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Operating a Student Academic Journal

A guide for student editors of academic journals



Publishing Considerations

  • Will you publish digitally or in print?
  • What software and platform will you use?
  • What costs and expenses are involved, and how will you cover them?
  • Who will be responsible for copyediting your publications?

Copyediting is a time consuming process that requires a particular skill set. Some journals choose to hire a copyeditor instead of doing it in-house.

  • How will you format and lay out your journal?

Your journal's formatting needs will vary depending on whether you are publishing in print or digitally.

  • How will people find your publication?
  • How will you make sure the articles you publish are available in the future?

It is important for authors that their published articles are accessible in the long term. These publications may be used when applying for programs or jobs. It is also valuable that the article was published in an academic journal, as this shows that the article was accepted through the editorial process and potentially was peer reviewed. Having a system in you journal which can guarantee that articles will be available and visible at part of an academic publication in the long term will make your journal much more appealing to scholars. Consider this when choosing how you publish and the software and platform you use. Wordpress websites, for example, require a subscription fee. If your journal shuts down in the future, this fee will not be paid and the publication will become inaccessible. If you are publishing in print, consider having a digital backup that can be accessed in the future. Making the journal available in the future will also benefit you in the future, as it will provide an example of your work as an editor. For more on this, see the "Archiving" section of the next page of this guide.


As a publisher, copyright will be very important to your work. It will determine how much control you retain over your publications, and how much control you require authors to give up over the work they publish with you. A journal's copyright policy may affect an author's decision to publish in a journal, so it is important that your policy is clear and easy to find during the submission process. Note that copyright policies are most often enunciated in publishing agreements, the document that authors sign when agreeing to publish their work with a journal.

While it was standard practice in the past for journals to acquire copyright in articles they publish, today it is becoming increasingly more common for journals to obtain a licenses to publish articles. This means that authors retains copyright in their work and publishers have either an exclusive or non-exclusive license to make those works available. Again, a journal's policy on this is often found in their publishing agreement and it is important that your journal have some sort of (written) agreement with authors outlining ownership of the content and the terms under which the journal is able to make the work available.    

Creative Commons Licenses

An alternative approach to copyright assignment is using a Creative Commons license. These licenses allow the sharing and reuse of a work. By choosing a suitable license, you can specify to what degree a work can be shared, altered or monetized by others. For example, the Attribution license allows any reuse, including commercial use and modification, as long as the creator is credited. The Attribution-Noderivs license, on the other hand, still allows commercial use, but does not allow modification. If you wish to encourage further open access publishing, you can use a license that includes "sharealike", which means any derivative publications must use the same license. 

The advantage of using these licenses is that by making a work easy to share and build on, it will be able to reach a wider audience. This benefits the publisher and author widening their potential audience, and is beneficial to the larger community by making knowledge more accessible. A concern regarding creative commons licenses is that they give an author less control over how their work may be disseminated and reused. Because of this, it is important that if you are going to require a Creative Commons license in for work you publish, you are clear about which license you are using and what its effects will be. This allows authors to make an informed decision about whether your journal is right for them.

Open Access Publishing

Open Access publishing is publishing where the research is shared without restriction from cost or other barriers. Tools like the Open License and Open Journal Systems can aid in this process. There are several benefits to publishing using an open access model:

  • Reducing restrictions increases the potential audience of your journal
  • Open access allows research to spread more quickly and easily by removing barriers

If you are interested in Open Access, there are a few things to consider:

  • What copyright license will you use?

The Creative Commons offers a variety of licenses that allow for the sharing of your works to different degrees. For example, the Attribution license allows any reuse, including commercial use and modification, as long as the creator is credited.

The license you choose will affect how your publication and its contents can be shared. It may also be a factor for authors deciding whether to publish in your journal, as it will affect their control over their work.

  • What platform will you use to publish?

Open Journal Systems is built for open access publishing. It is discussed in more detail below. If you choose another platform, look at its terms of service to make sure that there is no licensing terms that will affect your open publishing.

Forms of Open Access

Green Open Access

In Green Open Access publishing, the author's make their works available by placing them in an open-access archive. At UBC, cIRcle is such an archive. This is easier for you as a publisher, but may be less appealing for authors, as it requires more work on their part and the work is not as easily recognizable as having been published in a journal.

Gold Open Access

Gold Open Access publishing is where the publication itself is open access, and articles are accessed in open access form through its website. This requires more labour and potentially cost from the publication, but alleviates the burden from the author, and makes sure that all of the articles are collected together. 

Open Journal Systems

Open Journal Systems (OJS) is a system for managing an publishing journals created by the Public Knowledge Project. It is open source, customizable and includes many features to aid in operating a journal. The system is built to facilitate open access publishing. 

OJS is free to use, and once set up can be used without much further effort. With some technical skill its appearance can be customized to suite your needs. It also includes many features specifically for journal editors, such as online submissions, the ability to create issues and organize articles within them, and a workflow system to coordinate the editorial and review processes.

UBC Library has its own installation of OJS, found here. If you set up your journal through UBC's OJS hosting, your journal will be listed along the UBC's other OJS journals, providing an additional place for readers to find it. The library also provides support for students using OJS. They can help you to set up your OJS site and provide an overview of how it works. If you are interested in this support, you can email them:

The main disadvantage of OJS is that is requires some time to learn. Unlike something like Wordpress, it is unlikely that someone who is new to academic publishing will have any previous experience with OJS. The PKP School does offer instructional modules on the use of OJS, and as mentioned above, UBC Library can provide more direct support, so with the robustness of OJS's features, you may decide that this time investment is worth it.


Authors will need to know the following:

  • What sorts of articles do you accept?
    • discipline/field?
    • Format?
  • Who do you accept articles from?
    • Members of a certain institution or department? Academics of a specific level?
  • What is the deadline for submissions?
  • How will they submit works?
  • What format/style should they use?
  • What will the review process involve?
  • What is your copyright policy?
  • Who should they contact with questions?

Publishing Schedule

Publication is a process with many steps. Consider when you wish for your journal to be released, and what will need to be done for that to happen.

  • Call for submissions
  • Submission deadline
  • Selecting articles for peer review
  • Matching articles and peer reviewers
  • Deadline for first round of peer review
  • Deadline for final round of peer review
  • Final selection of articles for publication
  • Copyediting
  • Layout and design of the journal
  • Printing (in the case of a print journal)
  • Publication

Some of these steps will be completed by the editors. For these, having a set schedule will help keep the process organized and on time. Other steps will be completed by others, for example, peer reviewers. In this case having clear deadlines will help keep them on track and save you effort in following up.


Once you have published, how will your readers find your journal? There are several things you can do to make it easier for them.

Register an ISSN

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is a unique 8-digit code given to a serial publication to identify it. It can be used for a print or digital publications. ISSNs are used by libraries and databases. For a journal, having an ISSN will allow your journal issues to be cataloged in the places an academic audience is likely to look for them. Applying for an ISSN is free. Apply for an ISSN in Canada HERE 

Register a DOI for articles

Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) provide a consistent and fixed way to access a document. The DOI is linked to the location of the document, meaning that as long as the publisher updates the information, the DOI can be used to access the document even if it moves. This is more stable than a URL, which becomes useless of the location of the document is changed. DOIs can also include metadata about the document, providing more information. DOIs are also used by referencing systems such as Crossref, meaning naving a DOI will make your articles easier to cite. 

DOIs are registered through a registration agency such as Crossref. Crossref requires an annual membership fee and a small fee for each item registered.

Optimize for search engines

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website more visible to search engine users. Steps like making your site quick to load and adding metadata will make your website more friendly to people searching for it.

Maintain a consistent social media presence

Social media provides an opportunity to communicate with our audience between publications, keeping them engaged and potentially attracting new readers. You can share articles and news related to your field and events relating to your journal. When you are looking for submissions, new editors or peer reviewers, social media provides another outlet for this as well. Consider creating a social media policy specifying which platforms you will use, how often you will use them and what sorts of content you will post. 

Connect with other organizations and professionals

As an academic journal, you audience will naturally be made up largely of academics. For this reason, it is valuable to your journal to build relationships with organizations and individuals in the field that you are working in. Editors from other journals may be able to advise you on the process or suggest resources. Individuals may want to publish in your journal or become a peer reviewer in the future. Academic organizations in the field may share your journal. Academic conferences also present an opportunity to share your journal and learn from others. Taking these opportunities will give you a chance to build your journal's profile.


This Digital Publishing Workshop resource gives a more detailed look at what you can do to make your journal easy to find.


This Guide to Developing OA Journals by David J. Solomon, PhD was used as a resource in the creation of this page, and gives a more detailed rundown of publishing a journal. It is directed at open access journal publishers but its contents are useful for any student journal publisher.