A preprint is the manuscript copy of an article that is sent to publishers for consideration and peer review. Preprints are generally shared through specialized preprint server like OSF Preprints or arXiv.
Advantages of Preprints
Once research is complete and a manuscript is ready for peer review and publication, the article is also ready for posting online to a preprint server. Posting these preprints can help to advance the speed of research in a field (Johansson, Reich, Meyers, Lipsitch 2018), solicit feedback months or years earlier than the final publication (Desjardins-Proulx, White, Adamson, Ram, Poisot, Gravel 2013), address issues of open access equity (Tennant, Waldner, Jacques et al, 2016), and increase the citation count of articles when they are published (Davis, Fromerth 2007) amongst other potential advantages.
Publisher support for Preprints
The posting of some stage of an article’s manuscript was, as of 2015, formally supported by 78%1 of the peer-reviewed journals tracked by the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publisher open access policies. Support for preprints has grown since 2015, including via formal procedures for issuing Digital Object Identifiers (DOI) to preprints in 2016 and the resulting standardization of the “Version of Record” metadata that enables authors to link together the DOIs for an article’s preprint and the version later published in a journal.
Where to post your Preprint
Where you can and should post preprints of your work varies based on your field of research, your academic institution, and the particular journals in which you seek to publish. Though services like SHARE exist to enable easy searching across multiple preprint services, if one particular preprint server is most commonly used by members of your research field, you may wish to post your own work there in order to make it easier to discover by the rest of your community. Most commonly preprints are posted:
On a dedicated preprint server, either one favored by your field, such as arXiv.org, or one open to any field, such as OSF Preprints
On the local repository operated by your academic library, or
On the researcher’s personal website
Posting a preprint on your personal site brings with it challenges in metadata, discoverability, and long term preservation so we encourage researchers to post to institutional repositories or dedicated preprint servers as the preferred location for their preprints and to include a link to such locations alongside any additional copies posted on a personal site.
Posting your Preprint on OSF
OSF welcomes preprints from all fields and disciplines, either through one of the community-run preprint servers that we provide the infrastructure for or through our discipline agnostic “OSF Preprints” option. Details on posting your preprint, and any supplemental files you may want to share, are covered in the "Upload a Preprint" guide.
Once your preprint has been submitted to OSF Preprints it will immediately be made public and a "Digital Object Identifier" or "DOI" will be created for it. Some of the community-run preprint services have a moderated submission process that will involve a review period and possible communication with someone on the service’s review team before your preprint is made public and a DOI generated.
Should your manuscript be published in a journal or other location that generates a separate DOI, the "Edit Your Preprint" guide has all the steps you need to add that second DOI to your preprint on OSF.
- SHERPA/RoMEO database of Publisher copyright & self-archiving policies.