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This guide highlights key information and resources for chemistry research.

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Science Librarian

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Jenna Strawbridge
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Welcome, chemistry folks!

Are you ready to publish your first academic paper? Our guide helps you step-by-step, from choosing a journal to negotiating a publishing contract.

Whether you're new to research or experienced, we've got the tips to make your publishing journey smooth. Let's get started and make your mark in the field of chemistry!

This guide is a brief overview geared toward chemistry, please check out Duke Libraries' ScholarWorks for more in-depth information or contact them at

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Choosing a journal

Your own reading

Which chemistry or other scientific journals do you find yourself reading routinely? What are the most-read journals in your field? Many widely read journals (such as Nature, Science, etc.) are prestigious, high-quality journals that could be difficult to publish in as an early career researcher (don't let this deter you, early career researchers have every right to publish in these kinds of journals...but just keep this in mind).

Your own collection of literature

Take a look at your collection of saved sources and see which journals are most prevalent. This is another plug to make sure you're using citation managers to keep track of your sources!

What do your colleagues suggest?

Talk with other students, postdocs, PIs, professors, or mentors. What has their experience been like, and do they have any recommendations?

Use indexing databases

Indexing databases, such as Web of Science and Scopus, can also help you identify relevant journals for publishing. Try conducting a broad search related to your research interest and then filter the results by Journal Title. This should give you an idea of which journals are publishing in your research area. Web of Science also has the Master Journal List, which allows you to search by keyword, and their Manuscript Matcher, which allows you to enter your paper's title and abstract and it will find appropriate journals (this tool requires a free Web of Science account).

Go directly to publisher websites

Major publishers, such as the American Chemistry Society (ACS), and Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), allow you to browse and filter their journals by keyword. Elsevier also offers a manuscript-matching tool, see Journal Finder.

Publishing models & OA

When considering where to publish your research, it's important as students and early-career researchers that you understand different publishing models. Traditional journals often require subscriptions or payments for access, limiting readership. On the other hand, open-access (OA) journals provide free access to published articles. There is also a wide variety of open-access options

Not sure what open access means? In a nutshell, open access refers to the practice of making research easily accessible to all users by eliminating fees or other barriers.

Duke University supports open access and encourages scholars to work towards making their research more readily accessible to all users, regardless of status or affiliation. In fact, Duke will cover article processing charges (APCs) for articles published in journals by the Royal Chemistry Society (RSC) (read more).

Not sure how to interpret publisher open-access policies? Check out Sherpa Romeo or contact ScholarWorks at

See Duke-supported open-access initiatives here:

Submitting your paper

Every journal has explicit instructions for article submission, and failure to comply with these instructions could result in the rejection of your paper.

Journals' instructions for authors should very clearly outline the specifics of how to structure and format your paper. One of the top reasons papers are rejected is during this initial editorial check, where editors are looking at word count, formatting, etc. Adhering to these instructions is one of the most frustrating parts of submitting to a journal because publishers and journals all have different instructions and expectations, which can result in a lot of time spent performing tasks such as reformatting figures, altering captions, etc.

Some journals may even provide templates for manuscript submission, often using platforms such as Overleaf for LaTeX. Another key instruction to look out for is the citation style used by the journal. If you were thinking ahead and used a citation manager when writing your manuscript, then switching between citation styles can be as simple as clicking a button in your word-processing app.

Not sure what to expect? The ACS authorship guidelines are a great example.

Peer-review process

Peer review is like a quality check for academic journals. Experts in the same field as the author review the manuscript to make sure it's solid in terms of originality, methods, and importance. The goal is to maintain high standards in academic work and catch any mistakes or biases before publication.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Look to see if the journal offers a statement or guidelines on their peer review process
  • Does the journal employ Single Blind (where the author does not know the names of the reviewers) or Double Blind (where all author information is removed from a paper, and neither reviewers or authors can be identified) peer review? This can affect how you submit your paper.
  • Keep in mind the duration of the peer review process. There are tools, such as Elsevier's Journal Finder and SciRev that can help you find this information.

Is peer review perfect? No, there has been much debate recently as to its merits as well as bias. Check out this 2022 blog post from Harvard chemistry graduate student Wei Li.

Archiving your work

Once you've submitted your paper for publication, consider archiving your work with Duke via a repository. Duke Libraries operates two digital repositories: Research Data Repository and DukeSpace. The RDR accepts data, documentation, software, and other code related to publications, while DukeSpace is Duke's open-access publications repository. Please see ScholarWorks' OA deposit page for more information or visit their guide for an in-depth look into DukeSpace.

Archiving is the act of depositing a free electronic copy of your manuscript, either before or after the peer-review process, to provide open access to it. Be mindful that depending on how you negotiate your publishing contract, you may not be allowed to do so. Contact for more information on copyright, publishing, and self-archiving.