A graduate student who had an article accepted for publication asked Jonathan Ichikawa, professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia, about the post-acceptance process.
He answered in a series of tweets, which someone suggested putting up as a guest post here, for those who don’t do Twitter. Dr. Ichikawa agreed, and so here it is, lightly edited. Discussion welcome.
Your Paper Has Been Accepted. Now What?
A philosophy grad student who got their first journal acceptance asked me how things works from there — what will happen next, can they put their draft online, etc. It occurred to me that there are probably more people out there who’d benefit from answers to those questions. (My intention is for this to just lay out some tacit knowledge that those of us who have been around a while already have; it’ll probably be boring to academic veterans, unless you think I’m wrong.)
So your paper’s been accepted. Congratulations! You have probably been invited to prepare the “final version”. This might be almost exactly the same as the version you submitted, or you might do some more editing at this stage.
Minimally, you’ll restore acknowledgements and other information that you left out for anonymous review. You may have comments from referees along with your acceptance. You can react to these at your discretion.
It is also OK, in my opinion, to make small changes you’ve thought of yourself — changing the wording, tightening the argument, adding another citations, etc. Little things, not big things. The boundary is fuzzy but but the basic idea is, these should be at most minor changes that it’d be hard to imagine editors or referees even possibly rejecting the paper over. Don’t make new arguments that haven’t gone through peer review.
So you submit the final version, probably along with some copyright transfer paperwork. Then you’ll forget about it for a while, until one day suddenly they send you proofs. Proofs are a PDF of your paper, typeset in the journal style. A copyediting process happened in between, so your prose might be slightly different at points. (Some journals check in with you between copyediting and proofs, but most don’t.) You’ll have a surprisingly short period of time — maybe a week — to look over the proofs and let them know if they’ve made mistakes. This process can vary a lot; sometimes it’s very smooth, and sometimes you’ll find they’ve made a bit of a mess of things. Anyway, you’ll send them a list of proof corrections (or tell them there are none). And then a little while later, the official published version of your paper will appear.
Can you share your unofficial version online? The official legal answer: it depends, but probably. The what is typically done and it is fine answer: yes. My sense is that most people post their own preprint online. This is probably that “final version” you sent in — typeset yourself by Word or LaTeX or whatever, not the journal style. But it includes everything that will be in the published paper, so someone can read your draft paper and get the full content, but can’t cite page numbers. Maybe some wording will change slightly due to copyediting. You’d typically include a note like “forthcoming in X, please cite published version” at the top. Again, I’m describing what I think most people do. Whether you’re technically officially allowed to do this depends on the fine print of the copyright transfer agreement you signed. Some officially let you do what I just described; some say you can only post the submitted version, prior to peer review; some say you can only post after a certain period of time after publication. My own sense is that most people usually ignore these rules. I have never heard of anyone getting in trouble for violating them by posting their own preprint versions online.
Anyway, that’s my post about what happens after you get an acceptance from a journal. I hope it was useful to at least some of you! Have a nice day!