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In an application to a phd program, if I claim that some paper of mine is accepted and the paper has not yet been published, then should I attach the letter of acceptance along with the manuscript itself to my CV?

I assume logically the stuff should be done, but I am not sure if attaching a copyright-transferred manuscript is legal or ethical. So what is the best strategy with respect to a situation like this one?

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The typical way to list such a paper is

'author, author, and author. "Title", Journal of XYZ, to appear'

That should be enough with regards to your C.V. Anyone in academia will be familiar with this notion, and is unlikely to be think that you might be lying. After all, the truth will become obvious one way or another shortly.

If they want to see copies of your papers, it's OK to attach a preprint as well, as long as you clearly label it: "Preprint, do not distribute." Many journals will in preproduction have sent you a proof copy with exactly this as a watermark. Sharing in this way clearly falls under fair use protection, even if you have transferred copyright, just as if you were showing it to them in person.

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