What is Scholarly Communication?

Image of two silhouetted heads in conversation, superimposed over a shelf of library books.

Scholarly communication refers to all the ways that scholarly work gets created, shared, disseminated, evaluated, and preserved. Thus, it encompasses: scholarly writing, publication, copyright, peer review, promotion and tenure, scholarly communities, managing research data, using digital repositories, and other aspects of what we call the scholarly communication “ecosystem.” Whether you are a professional scholar, a student, or a user of this kind of information, it is important to have an understanding of how that system works, and its implications for how we share knowledge more broadly.

Classroom instructors can integrate scholarly communication concepts into their curricula and assignments in a variety of ways that help students understand how knowledge is shared in a scholarly environment. Below are just a few ideas you can use and/or build on.

Scholarly Writing

While every discipline has its own models of scholarly research and writing, there are a number of resources available on the UNT Libraries Scholarly Writing Guide that could be useful for your classes. These include books, articles, and websites dealing with academic voice and style, conducting research, writing journal articles, finding publication venues, getting published, and finding online writing communities.

If yours is a research or writing-intensive course, you might consider creating an assignment that encourages students to learn about the scholarly dissemination process: writing and submitting a conference paper proposal, journal article, or a piece of creative writing; organizing a mini-conference; participating in an online scholarly community; or editing and publishing a sample journal issue (perhaps using UNT Libraries Journal Hosting platform).

Peer Review

Peer review is at the heart of scholarly communication, since it influences how scholarly work is created, disseminated, and evaluated. Have students try out different peer review models—“blind,” “double-blind,” “open,” “community review,” or an experimental model such as “formative peer review”—and then make an argument for which model produces the best scholarship. You can try using an annotation tool such as Hypothes.is to facilitate various forms of review or have students edit and produce their own peer-reviewed journal issue using one of these models. It might also be valuable to have students look at the peer review guidelines or review forms used by journals in your field.


Copyright includes laws governing intellectual property rights and commercial or non-commercial use of published materials. Give your students a brief introduction to copyright using a short video like this one and discuss the purposes and limitations of copyright. Then have them watch this video about Creative Commons licenses or read about the different CC licensing types to see how certain aspects of copyright may be granted or withheld through licenses.

With this information in mind, encourage students to discuss or debate how they would like to have their own scholarly or creative work shared and used by others. Which rights do they feel creators should keep and which should they forego for the sake of dissemination, education, and new works that build upon their own?

Research Data Management

Students or classes involved in gathering or using data should always be encouraged to use best practices in data management. Learning these practices is important not only for project management purposes, but also for funding applications to most federal and private grant agencies.

There are a number of useful resources out there that can help students and faculty learn the basic concepts of data management, including data organization, file formats, metadata, storage, and version control. The Educopia Institute has short guidance briefs on each of these topics, and Clinical Tools, Inc. has a set of guidelines that includes short modules on various aspects of data management.

Instructors might have students develop their own data management plans using the DMP Tool, available to all UNT faculty and students. You can find guidance on how to use the tool here.

Scholarly Communities

Have your students join an online scholarly community like Humanities Commons or one of the groups on the Social Science Research Network, create a profile, and follow a particular discussion thread for a period of time. They can ask questions, participate in discussions, or just document the course of a scholarly discussion and report on how conversations between scholars in a given field develop. You could supplement this exercise by having students follow a similar conversation in a series of scholarly journal articles. Have students think about how these forums are similar and different and how each contributes to the sharing and development of new knowledge in a field.

Other Topics

These are just a few of the topics that fall within the scope of scholarly communication. Each discipline may have its own practices and forums for engaging in scholarly communication—journals, conferences, scholarly organizations, blogs, online communities, etc. To learn about these resources it may be useful to talk to colleagues, join a scholarly organization, or invite a subject librarian to your class to educate students about new library resources in your field. You can also talk to one of our scholarly communication librarians for more information or ideas on introducing scholarly communication concepts to your classes. You can see a list of presentations and workshops that the Libraries offer or talk to a librarian about tailoring one for your class.