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Journal Publishing Guide

Congratulations! You’ve got the "keys" to your brand new OJS site, and you are one step closer to opening up your journal to accept submissions. At this stage, your journal is set up to be only visible to registered users so you can control who sees it while you get set up. This section of the guide will guide you through some of the common activities new journals do at this stage.

This page assumes that you will allow users to self-register as Roles of: reader, author, and/or reviewer, and that you will be using OJS to accept submission and to manage your review workflow. If you prefer to not use these features, email us at and we can help you configure the workflows differently. 

To learn the OJS system, we recommend the following resources

Email us at for a one-on-one training session for your editorial team. We do a 60-minute session that follows an article through all the steps from submission to publication, which can be customized to address any questions you have.

User roles

One of the first things you will do after getting your OJS site is to add your editorial team as users and assign them the appropriate OJS role. 

What are the different roles in OJS (e.g. editor, section editor, etc.)?

  • Journal managers & editors have access to all the editorial workflows and most of the settings, including assigning articles to editors

  • Layout editors & Copyeditors can only see certain stages of the process for articles to which they’ve been assigned

  • Guest editors & Section editors can see all stages of the process, but only for articles to which they've been assigned

  • Reviewers can only see the review stage of articles to which they’ve been assigned; reviewers can also decline assignments

  • Authors can only see their own papers at certain stages, depending on the settings configured for the anonymity of the review

Users can have multiple roles. To assign someone to a particular task (e.g. review) they’ll need to be assigned that role in the system. These roles are predetermined in OJS; changing them could lead to confusion about user privileges. We strongly recommend you keep them as-is. You can learn more about users and roles in the PKP Documentation.


OJS Settings Checklist

The OJS software has a number of settings we suggest you review before going live. During our setup, we’ve entered in as much information as we had from your original journal proposal. We have also populated some text with default OJS information or recommended policies.

We've created an OJS settings checklist which includes a description of the key settings and links to further documentation on the settings and examples from our demo OJS journal. 

Designing Your Journal

We are huge fans of Designing OJS Journals, a guide from PKP, especially the section on inclusive & accessible web design. In addition to the technical information, this document contains easy-to-understand principles on good design and effective branding.

General theme and design resources

Logo and image resources 

Website layout - U of A default house style

The structural layout of OJS is controlled by a Theme plugin. If you've ever used WordPress or similar website products, you might already be familiar with the concept of Theming.  Every new journal is set up with a U of A default “house” style. This was developed a few years ago for our journals on top of the popular PKP Manuscript theme. Professionally designed and cohesive in appearance, these themes are simple to navigate and easy to view on various devices it was designed with sustainability in mind and tested to minimize the number of disruptions that future OJS upgrades may cause. It includes a floating main page, background, sidebar on the right-hand side, customizable buttons, and a horizontal primary navigation bar. This "house" style includes 2 customizable colours: the main colour and an accent colour. You can change those at any time. It also includes a custom CSS stylesheet, which should not be revised without further consulting us. If you have provided us with your colours and logo, or homepage image in advance we can include those, or help you modify them.

Here are a few of our journals that have variations on our U of A default “house” style:

If you need help updating your site that uses the U of A default “house” style, we have documentation that outlines some of the most common changes you might make or you can email us at

Other OJS Themes

PKP has a variety of out-of-box themes that we can install upon request. Each has been developed with a specific look and feel. You can see them in action at the PKP Demo Site. When choosing a theme, consider all the elements on the article page, issue table of contents, and informational pages, in addition to the homepage. Some themes (such as Health Sciences) put the sidebar on the bottom, which is not great for long sidebar blocks. The Immersion theme article pages show date submitted alongside date published. Try looking at them on different-sized screens.

If you select a theme other than Manuscript, we will need to remove the CSS stylesheet developed for Manuscript for you. We are also unable to provide any additional custom CSS support beyond Manuscript. We strongly recommend that you refrain from custom CSS development, unless you have a long-term web designer on the team. OJS is expected to undergo periodic future upgrades, and CSS frequently breaks due to upgrades.