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Once a paper of mine has definitively been accepted for publication, I typically list it on my CV and in citations as "forthcoming". Other people seem to use "in press" for the same category, and an author once asked me to change my reference to his paper to use "in press" rather than "forthcoming". Do you feel that there's a literal difference in what's conveyed by these two terms, or some difference of connotation? I suspect it simply has to do with conventions in different disciplines.

(Personally, I'm a little bit uncomfortable with "in press", since it suggests that the publisher is at least close to the process of printing the paper. Apart from the fact that that doesn't make sense for online-only journals, I feel funny referring to a paper that I know will appear in a journal issue dated a year and a half into the future as "in press". Actually being printed is a long way off.)

(On the other hand, I suppose that "forthcoming" might be confusing to someone who doesn't know its standard meaning in academia. In theory, someone might interpret it as implying no more than "This is something that I'm planning to write, when I get around to it, and this is the journal I expect to publish in." Obviously, that's not what most academics take "forthcoming" to mean, but any thoughtful person would understand that "in press" implies that you can count on the paper being published.)

EDIT: Obviously, given some of the answers to my question, the way that I thought that nearly all academics obviously interpret "forthcoming" was not correct (assuming that there's not too much weirdness in the sample I've drawn by asking the question here).

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I use "To appear in [journal]" which I think avoids this ambiguity. – David Z Jul 17 '14 at 16:47
Or "accepted by [journal]". "Submitted" is also useful as it states in a single word that the work has been written up. – Chris H Jul 17 '14 at 18:29
The Establishment sometimes gets a little too caught up in words. You need not worry about such minor possibilities of misinterpretation. Lives are not at stake. – TheDoctor Jul 18 '14 at 15:11
@DavidZ, good idea. Given some of the remarks about "forthcoming" here, I would still worry that someone might nevertheless misinterpret "to appear in [journal]". – Mars Jul 19 '14 at 17:45
@MarkJ, fair enough. Nevertheless, I do care about individuals who investigate my work. Evaluations by others can lead to opportunities for participation in an intellectual community. I'd rather not be misunderstood. – Mars Jul 19 '14 at 17:45
up vote 5 down vote accepted

I don't agree with most of the answers so far in one point: The answer depends on your field / area of research, so there is no universal truth about them.

For example in economics I have never seen "in press" and "forthcoming in [journal]" means that it is accepted. If the issue of the journal is already clear some people change it so that it looks like was already published (with a date in the future). (However, most people don't care after that point.)

The only thing where I have seen "in press" is when talking about a book.

So the main point (at least for me) is to clearly state by whom it is "in press" or where it is "forthcoming", as this adds credibility to your claim that it will be published.

However, from your question it is clear that both are common in your area of research and therefore I would just stick with the most commonly used. If you add the journal / conference where it is going to be published it should be clear that it was accepted.

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The variation in other answers, and in my own experience, shows that your opening answer has to be correct. My sense is that "forthcoming" is what's most common in my field, but I now think that "in press" is safer. Some of my research is of interest outside of my field, and everyone's CV is read by someone outside their field some time (e.g. during university promotion processes). Given some of the answers, I would even worry that "forthcoming in [journal]" could be misinterpreted as if consistent with: "This is where I expect it to appear, once I write it." – Mars Jul 19 '14 at 17:32

I think many people would construe "in press" as meaning "has been refereed, accepted, and will definitely appear sometime", while "forthcoming" is often more vague, and may include cases where something has not yet been approved by a referee ... or even submitted... or even written.

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I use in press for any accepted papers, regardless of the time-to-publication. I don't feel that indicating an article as in press implies that it will be published any time soon.

I specifically do not use forthcoming because it is ambiguous to me. I've seen people use it for everything ranging from accepted papers to future work in a conceptual phase.

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To me, "forthcoming" usually means "I think I have enough material to write it up, and maybe I've even begun writing." I don't think I've ever used "forthcoming" myself, and I tend to be skeptical about any paper that others list as forthcoming. – Andreas Blass Jul 17 '14 at 16:08

The major separator for manuscripts is whether or not they have been accepted for publication. This means been through peer review and revisions and accepted by the journal editors. Once a manuscript passes this step it can be assigned as in press. Anything before that stage is manuscript in preparation or in prep. for short. In a CV you can of course list manuscripts that have been submitted but not passed acceptance and submitted but this is usually not a formulation accepted as a reference in a journal. In my own CV I list manuscript as either submitted or published (which then includes in press).

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I use "forthcoming" for articles and books that have been accepted, and switch to "in press" when they have a firmer publish date (in the future).

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Especially given the other responses to this question, I'd recommend not using the terms in that way, unless it's standard in your field. When you say "My paper is forthcoming", you mean that it's been written, refereed, revised and accepted, and you're just waiting for the publisher to get their ducks in a row. The person you're talking to, though, doesn't even necessarily realise you've finished writing it! – David Richerby Jul 17 '14 at 22:18
It seems my standards are higher than others, which is fine for me. I don't feel like I have to stuff my CV add I have tenure. – RoboKaren Jul 17 '14 at 22:40
It's not a matter of standards: it's a matter of other people thinking that the word "forthcoming" means something other than what you intend by it. Also, I can't think of any situation in which it's important to distinguish between "The publisher has accepted my manuscript but has not yet decided exactly when it will be published" and "The publisher has accepted my manuscript and has decided that it will be published on date X." – David Richerby Jul 17 '14 at 22:56

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