Types of publications

This article provides information on the different types of publications in the Arts and Sciences.

What types of publication are there? What distinguishes a cumulative dissertation from a monograph? What is open access? Guidebooks and reference works often explain these terms in terms of the need to publish a research paper after completing a stage of an academic career (PhD, post-doctoral position, etc.). We understand the right of publication as a fundamental one that people acquire when they begin a course of study. In this article, you will therefore find an overview of the most common terms – not, however, as an all-round carefree package, but as an appeal for critical reflection. 

Zum Artikel: Welche Publikationstypen gibt es?

Essay in a journal

In addition to print publication, journals – driven by trends in the natural sciences – have long since become indispensable institutions for academic publications. The advantages of high visibility for authors correlate with direct international sales opportunities for publishers. The publishing world is undergoing a phase of fundamental change due to digitalization. However, this entails challenges for workers‘ & authors‘ rights, as trade unions repeatedly point out. 

Journal articles are standard in many disciplines, including the natural sciences, economics, and the social sciences. Collaborative authorship (co-authorship) is also not uncommon in these disciplines. 

What is peer review?

Scientific publications undergo a review process before being published in a journal. This is the examination of the submitted article by a commission of experts. Often the peer review process is a so-called double blind, in which the committee reviews the submitted article without being informed about the author. The decision to include the article in the journal is therefore based on the text alone – a process that is supposed to guarantee more objectivity. While the peer review process is complex and time-consuming, the goal is to ensure the highest possible quality. 

What does open access mean?

Open access stands for free access to a publication. Academic publications are expensive due to their often low sales. For publishers, this means they have to compensate for their regular expenses (salaries of employees, rent, material, electricity costs, etc.) by charging a high retail price. The great promise of digital publications, however, is free access to knowledge for all.

In reality, however, open access publications come at a cost. The loss of sales must be recouped through a high compensation sum. Numerous foundations and institutions have specialized in promoting open access publications. Governments are also increasingly supporting open access strategies.

Article in an edited volume

In the social sciences and humanities it is common to publish shorter texts in edited volumes. These books can be published by one person or a group of editors. Conference papers quite often lead to an invitation to submit your article for an edited volume. Contributions to edited volumes are also subjected to a peer review process, especially in the case of public calls for papers.


The classic book type with usually one author is called a monograph. Commonly, doctoral theses are published as a monograph across disciplines. This also accounts for cumulative theses, where the individual essays will be combined and submitted with an added introduction and conclusion. In the humanities and social sciences, researchers keep publishing their work as monographs as their career moves on. 

Cumulative doctorate

The term cumulative is of Latin origin and means: to accumulate, to increase. Cumulative dissertations are a frequent type of publication in the natural and social sciences. Some more advice: Before starting your doctorate: Clarify with your advisor whether a cumulative dissertation is possible according to your doctoral regulations and whether it makes sense for your PhD project. The assessment of your advisor is very important in this case. This is because the individual publications also want to be placed in a larger context in advance.

  • Clarify which journals are basically suitable for publication. 
  • Find out what the requirements for the peer review process are. 
  • Clarify how the main content of your research should be distributed across the individual publications so that a common thread remains recognizable.