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Publication Practices

Responsible publication practices and authorship are key elements of Responsible Conduct of Research. Publications create a record of research, building collective knowledge in society and advancing science. By publishing results, researchers allow others to review their work, so they can replicate and build upon it.

Authorship is a means to credit individuals for their contributions to a study’s design and research. Authorship customs and practices differ from one discipline to another. Early team planning for a project should include discussion and agreement by all investigators on authorship issues, such as when and where to publish along with establishing a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities. Principal investigators (PIs) should ensure the research team is aware of applicable authorship practices, as well as journal requirements. PIs should keep written records about decisions regarding authorship and should, with the team, revisit decisions if roles or contributions change over the course of the work.

Items that the research team must consider include:

  • Citations – Work of others is properly referenced, in the required format(s).
  • Contributions – All individuals participating in the project are credited accurately and in applicable sections.
  • Data – Data is double-checked to confirm no errors are published, and data is retained in accordance with”Appendix A: Sharing, Retention, and Ownership of Research Data” of RE0001 UT Policy and Procedures on Responsible Conduct in Research and Scholarly Activities.
  • Transparency – Authors have disclosed and, through set University processes, managed any potential conflicts of interest related to the project. (See Research Conflicts of Interest & Commitment.)
  • Responsibilities – Authors agree to and are responsible for their portion of publication contents.

Standard practices for determining authorship are provided by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME) and the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). These professional standards are applicable across a wide group of disciplines and center around the following criteria for authorship:

  • “Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.” (from ICJME website)
  • ” Two minimum requirements define authorship across all definitions – making a substantial contribution to the work and being accountable for the work and its published form.
  • Acknowledgements may be used to denote contributions to the work that do not meet the criteria of Authorship ” (from COPE)

Doctoral and master’s candidates should take advantage of Graduate School resources as they create theses or dissertations. The UT Graduate School website provides guidance on issues such as copyright considerations, formatting requirements, the approval process, and submitting works to TRACE. Also, to avoid plagiarism (a type of research misconduct) in theses and dissertations, documents should be submitted through iThenticate software before submission.

See the Graduate School iThenticate website for more information related to specific graduation requirements and iThenticate use.

Peer reviews help ensure the quality of research publications, providing confidence in results and helping advance science. With the honor of serving as a peer reviewer or journal editor comes responsibility. Peer reviewers and journal editors should perform in an unbiased manner and in compliance with journal requirements. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) provides Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers. Among many key points are reviewers’ “obligation to conduct reviews in an ethical and accountable manner” and to communicate clearly with the journal.

If potential competing or conflicting interests exist, the reviewer has a responsibility to raise the concern to the journal. Someone serving as a journal editor should also notify the journal of any interest that could cause bias or the appearance of bias.

The NIH Office of Research Integrity also offers resources on the topic of Peer Review.

Copyright laws provide protection to original works, automatically, at the time they are “fixed in a tangible medium of expression” (see Copyright Law). Registering your work with the US Copyright Office will create a public record, but is not necessary for copyright to apply.

Copyright laws provide protection for you as an author and also create responsibilities when using copyrighted materials. Keep in mind:

  • For dissertations, theses, and other publications republishing copyrighted materials:
  • When submitting, reviewing, or editing works submitted to a journal, review and understand the journal’s licensing agreements.
  • Follow journal guidelines for citations and acknowledgements.
  • Perform iThenticate review before publishing.
  • Consider publishing in – or serving as editor or reviewer for – journals with open-access.

For more information, contact or UT Libraries staff.


The University of Tennessee Libraries provides excellent resources in the area of publication practices, including guidance on Author Rights & Editorial Support, a Scholarly Communication Librarian to assist with publication needs, and a Scholarly Publishing Toolkit with resources on a multitude of topics, including Authorship, Research Misconduct, and Plagiarism.