Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises


Published documents

core definition

A published document is one that is made publicly available, freely or at a cost.

explanatory context

Publication used to be via a publishing house but with the advent of the internet authors can self-publish, or, indeed, people can publish other people's work or documents against the will of the (copyright) owner, whether this be Wiki leaks or other unreputable websites that ignore legitimate copyright ownership.


The distinction between published and grey literature is becoming increasingly blurred.


The real trick for the analyst is to identify what of the published material, especially on the internet, is worth engaging with. This has, of course, always been the case for material published in newspapers.

analytical review

Back in 2001 Geoffrion predicted that the distinction between published and unpublished will diminish:

In the pre-computer era, the difference between a published and unpublished information was readily obvious even to untrained readers. While vanity presses existed and some individuals opted to self-publish, the costs associated with such undertakings assured that these pseudo-publications were a small minority of the total corpus of works sold. This distinction was made even greater since most book stores and libraries are hesitant to allocate valuable shelf space to vanity publications....

Desktop publishing was the first kink in this orderly arrangement. Software like Quark Xpress and Pagemaker gave amateurs the ability to compose text with the same sophisticated layouts that were previously available only in large graphic design houses....

The web is the second kink, by offering direct distribution between author and reader. No longer does one need to go through a publisher, or other mediator. An individual with decent marketing talent can produce a web site that is largely indistinguishable from those of major publishers in terms of professional layout and presentation.

Australian Society of Authors (2013) in answering the question 'What is a published work?' states :

Surprisingly, the definition of a published work can be quite contentious. The ASA defines a published work as one that has been previously produced in an edition of any kind (for example, in a magazine, book, collection, anthology, floppy disk, or CD-Rom) or has been previously displayed on a website and made available to the public. The number of copies available makes no difference to published status. The important criterion is availability to the public (whether free or at cost). An item on a limited access intranet, therefore, would not be regarded as published, but an item in a blog would.

A printed publication will ideally have been registered with an ISBN, ISSN, or Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) entry (in Australia, this service is provided by the National Library of Australia), but the ASA would also regard a work as published if it were advertised as available for sale or distribution in a catalogue or on a website, including works that are self-published. Under theCopyright Act 1968, publishers and self-publishing authors are required to deposit a copy of any work published in Australia with the National Library, and with their state or territory deposit libraries, within one month of publication. Legal Deposit ensures that Australian publications are preserved for use now and in the future. A work that has been sent to a publisher but where no decision to publish has yet been made is not considered to be published.

associated issues


related areas

See also

Researching the Real World Section 1.14.2

Researching the Real World Section 5.3 on Establishing the Nature of Documents


Australian Society of Authors, 2013, 'What is a published work?' available at, accessed 31 March 2013, page not freely available 24 December 2016.

Geoffrion, L.D., 2001, 'The distinction between published and unpublished will diminish', available at, accessed 31 March 2013, still available 24 December 2016, 'not found' 13 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


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