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Library Research Support

Choosing a journal

What to consider when choosing a journal

A useful starting point to choosing a journal can be to identify a shortlist of journals in your subject area that may be suitable.

You can then consider each journal on your shortlist in more detail.

It is also important to check the trustworthiness of the journal to avoid publishing in a predatory journal.

Find journals in your subject area

There are a variety of sources of information to help you with making a shortlist of journals that publish articles in your subject area.

1. Think about the journals you read

Consider the journals that you are familiar with, those that publish articles you have read.  These are probably a great starting point.
If you use reference management software such as RefWorks or EndNote and you have a database of the articles of interest to you, this may help you to easily identify the journals that published the articles.

 

2. Ask your colleagues

Asking your colleagues for their recommendations is another good place to start. Your research group, supervisor, or research team will probably have suggestions or recommendations for relevant journals and may have had the experience of submitting to them. You may also be able to find out if your Department or Research Centre has a list of preferred or recommended journals.

 

3. Look at lists of  journals in your subject area or discipline

The databases below provide lists of journals by subject that may help you find journals for your shortlist.

  • Scopus - contains lists of journals by subject. Click on the ‘Sources’ link at the top of the Scopus home page and then search for a relevant subject area to see a list of journals publishing articles on that subject. 
  • The Web of Science master journal list and manuscript matcher enables you to search the 24000 journals indexed in Web of Science and view profiles for the journals.   You can also use the manuscript matcher which will suggest journals indexed in Web of Science which has published articles with similar keywords to your title/abstract.  Creating an account is free.

 

4. Consider professional bodies and learned societies

There could be academic or professional body guidance that you can refer to. For example, the Chartered Association of Business Schools CABS Academic Journal Guide 2018
Your professional body or learned society may publish journals which could therefore be journals worth considering. For example the Royal Society of Chemistry journals.

 

5. Find journals that publish similar articles

If you are not sure which journals publish articles in your area, you can use a relevant library database (find these using the Library’s subject guides) or a generic database like Scopus to search for articles on your topic or by key researchers and then look to see which journals the articles are from.

Some databases have features that can help you with this process.  For example, in Scopus, the ‘Analyze search results’ feature can be used to show you a list of the journals that the articles in your search were published in, sorted by how many of the articles come from each journal.

 

6. Use journal selectors/finders

You may come across tools that are designed to help you select a journal to publish in. The Web of Science manuscript matcher is multi-disciplinary, but other matches are usually limited to journals in a particular field, or to journals from particular publishers

There are other journal selectors also available, but please be careful before posting the abstract and other details of your article to a site without considering if there are any copyright and confidentiality issues.

If you have an EndNote online account, the “Match” option helps you to find possible journals in which to publish.

Consider each journal in detail

Once you have a shortlist of possible journals you should consider each journal in more detail. Below are some of the things you should consider:

1. What is the scope of the journal?

Have a look at the website of the journal to find a description of the scope of the journal.  You could also look at articles in previous issues to see the scope and types of articles published.

Consider:

  • does your research topic fit with the stated topic coverage
  • is the methodology you used appropriate
  • is the type of article accepted (original research, literature review, discussion, case study, etc.)
  • what is the required length of the article

Be wary of journals with a scope that is incongruent with the title, combines fields which are disjointed or includes a geographic scope bearing no relationship to the journal or publisher's origin.  Investigate further to make sure the journal is trustworthy.

 

2. Will it reach your intended audience

Investigate whether the journal will reach your target audience.  You may be able to find this information on the journal’s website or by considering the nature of the articles previously published.  Consider whether it is:

  • generalist or specific
  • aimed at practitioners, professionals, researchers, or the public
  • targeted at a specific region, country, or area

 

3. How discoverable is the journal?

Your research will reach a wider audience and have more impact if it can found easily.  Check if the major databases in your subject area index the journal. You can find relevant databases using the Library’s subject guides.

To find if a database indexes a journal:

  • check the journal’s website, it may provide this information.  However, an untrustworthy journal may falsely claim to be indexed in a database. You should double check whether it is indexed by looking in the database itself.
  • some database provides a source list.   For example, lists of journals indexed in some key databases are provided below:
  • search for the journal in the database.

 

4. Open Access and charges

Most journals provide information on their web pages about how Open Access can be achieved when publishing with that journal. If you make your work Open Access, it will reach a wider audience and could improve your academic impact.

The ‘green’ route to Open Access is via self-archiving of your accepted manuscript in a repository such as SHURA, alongside publication in a subscription journal.  Self-archiving is free, but there may be an embargo period before the full text can be made available. You can check journals in the SHERPA Romeo service to find out their policy on self-archiving in an institutional or other repository and about any embargo periods.

The ‘gold’ route to Open Access involves making the final version of record Open Access via the publisher’s website.  This usually involves paying a fee called an article processing charge (APC). Some journals are fully Open Access journals - all the articles in the journal are Open Access and you cannot publish in the journal without paying an APC. In hybrid journals you can publish for free but your article will not be Gold Open Access or you can pay an article processing charge to publish Open Access. If you wish to publish Gold Open Access in a fully open access or a hybrid journal, have a look at this information about how to get funding for gold open access before you submit your article.

Reputable journals will be clear about any Open Access fees before you submit your research and will provide editorial and publishing services, such as peer review for this fee.  However, there are  less scrupulous journals that charge for publication but  do not offer any of the editorial and publishing services you would expect or they may only inform you of these charges after you have submitted.  Please check that any journal you are considering submitting your work to is a trustworthy journal.

You should also check that your chosen journal will enable you to comply with your funder's Open Access requirements if relevant.

 

5. The journal's peer review process

You should check that the journal you are choosing undertakes this important quality control process and that you understand the type of peer review that the journal uses. 

This page about peer review provides more detail on how peer review works and the types of peer review.

A journal that promises acceptance cannot be peer reviewing the content and should be avoided.  Peer review is time consuming so also be wary of journals that advertise very fast times from submission to publication. 

 

6. The rejection or acceptance rate

As a result of the peer review process, some submissions are rejected (in fact this is very common for many journals).    You could therefore consider the rejection rate for the journal when you are deciding whether to submit to it or not. Higher prestige journals usually have higher rejection rates. However, don’t be afraid to aim high, you can always submit it to another journal if your article is rejected and the feedback you receive may help you to continue to improve it.

To improve your chances of acceptance, try to address the common reasons for rejection described by Editage (2013) which include:

  • lack of originality, novelty, or significance
  • mismatch with the journal
  • flaws in study design
  • poor writing or organization
  • inadequate preparation of the manuscript

Submitting simultaneously to multiple journals is not acceptable and most journals will ask you to state that your article is not under consideration by another journal.

 

7. The time taken to publication

If publication of your work is time-critical, you may want to consider the following timescales:

  • the length of time taken from submission to acceptance (there are inherent delays because of the peer-review process).
  • the length of time taken from acceptance to publication online and to publication in print.
  • how frequently issues are produced and if any promised issues have been missed

This information may be available on the publisher’s website, or it may be possible to work out from any submitted, accepted, and published dates on articles or by asking the editor.  Bear in mind that if journals offer a very short time frame to publication, this may indicate a lack of peer-review or editorial processes and should be treated with caution.  However, some reputable journals do offer rapid publication or fast track processes, but importantly the peer review and editorial processes are still undertaken.   For example the Lancet Swift+ service.

 

8. The prestige of the journal

Take into account the reputation of the journal. If you are not familiar with the journal:

  • ask colleagues what they think
  • check to see if the authors publishing in the journal are well known in the field
  • find out the names of the editor and the editorial board members and research how respected they are
  • consider the reputation of the publisher. For example, professional bodies are often considered prestigious

 

9. The impact factor and other bibliometrics

Bibliometrics aim to provide a quantitative analysis of publications, primarily through citation analysis.  Journal level bibliometrics such as the Impact Factor, CiteScore, Scimago Journal Rank, and SNIP can help you to identify journals that receive more attention in terms of citations than others.

Journal bibliometrics are measures of the attention a journal receives in terms of citations and provide a way to compare journals based on this. While these measures may help inform your journal choice when you are choosing where to publish, they are not necessarily an indicator of quality.  It is important to use qualitative analysis in your judgements of journals and when choosing where to publish, consider many other aspects, such as the scope, audience and trustworthiness of the journal.

Journal bibliometrics should not be used for any purpose other than comparing journals – they are not a way to measure the quality or impact of the articles in the journal or the authors of those articles.

Impact factors and some of the other journal level metrics are not normalised to correct for different citation patterns in different disciplines and therefore should not be used to compare journals from different fields. The Metrics toolkit: impact factors page describes in more detail the limitations of this measure.

How to find Journal impact factors

Journal impact factors are perhaps the most familiar journal bibliometric.  They are  produced by Clarivate Analytics (previously Thomson Reuters) and can be found in the database Journal Citation Reports.

Impact factors can be found for science and social science journals, but are not available for arts and humanities journals.

Clarivate provide a guide to the basics of using journal citation reports and a helpful sheet  showing how to see journals ranked in a category (subject).

How to find journal Citescores, SJRs and SNIPs

Citescores, SNIPs and SJRs can be found by clicking on the ‘Sources’ button when in the library database Scopus

CiteScores are calculated in a similar way to a Journal impact factor (although there are some differences) but are calculated from a different set of data.

The calculation of a journal’s Source Normalised Impact per Paper (SNIP) developed by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS) at the University of Leiden takes into consideration the citation potential of the journal in it’s subject or field.  It is therefore helpful if you wish to compare journals across disciplines.

Scimago Journal Rank (SJR) developed by the SCImago research group is another journal ranking metric, but it accounts for both the number of citations received by a journal and the importance or prestige of the journals the citations come from.

Please be wary of impact factors and bibliometric measures from sources that may be of questionable validity. The databases; Journal Citation Reports and Scopus are established sources of journal metrics. If a journal gives an impact factor on it's web site, you can check that it is genuine using these databases.

For more information, please see this article: Gutierrez, F. R.S., Beall, J. & Forero, D. A. (2015). Spurious alternative impact factors: the scale of the problem from an academic perspective. Bioessays, 37, 474-476. doi:10.1002/bies.201500011

Check that the journal is trusted

It is very important to check that you are submitting your research to a reputable journal that you can trust and will enhance your reputation.

Not all publishers follow the standards required to produce quality publications or follow ethical best practices.  

Charging fees for publishing Open Access is a legitimate business model, but some publishers/journals do this without offering peer review or editorial services.

If you receive an unsolicited email offering to publish your research, often also offering swift publication, be extra vigilant in checking the legitimacy of the journal – established publishers do not usually approach scholars and rapid publication usually suggests that peer review and other editorial processes do not take place. 

Have a look at the 'Think, Check, Submit' list of characteristics of a predatory journal/publisher.

Factors you should consider when evaluating the trustworthiness of a journal are in this checklist : Think, Check, Submit: Journals checklist and there is a brief introduction in the video below.

Choosing a conference

When choosing a conference, consider the relevance of your research to the stated conference theme. You may also want to think about how broad the conference topic is.  At an early stage of your career, it might be preferable to choose a  focused conference, where you will be able to attend the majority of the sessions and where it will be easier as a newcomer to network with other researchers in your field.

It is also important to check if it is a quality conference.  There are increasingly examples of bogus or vanity conferences. These may be organised purely to make money from registration fees and sometimes also from charges for hotel accommodation, meals, transportation, etc. They are often sparsely attended, may have no prominent or relevant speakers from whom to learn or with whom to establish a network, maybe cancelled with no return of fees, and have little or no academic credibility. It is therefore important to make sure you choose a conference carefully using the suggestions below.

The Think Check Attend site is useful in helping researchers identify legitimate conferences and avoid predatory conferences and provides a checklist of things to think about when assessing a conference.

There is also a summary of things to consider below.

Choosing a quality conference

  • Ask for recommendations: look for conferences recommended to you by your colleagues or your supervisor
  • Consider the prestige of the sponsor or publisher: look for conferences sponsored by scholarly or professional societies or associations. Do double check that they are indeed connected to the conference
  • Establish the credibility of the conference organiser: check who they are and their affiliation, for example by considering if their contact details are consistent with where they pertain to work or who they claim to represent
  • Be wary of very generic conferences that combine many fields of research. Quality conferences usually cover a particular discipline, subject area, or niche topic.
  • Review outputs from past conferences:  conferences can be annually or regularly held events. Check the outputs from previous conferences and the prestige of the authors or the presenters. Conference papers from quality conferences may be indexed in library databases such as Web of Science and IEEE Xplore, etc.  In the case of a one-off conference, have a look at who the advertised plenary speakers are as an indication of quality.
  • Be wary of unsolicited invitations: quality conferences rarely solicit papers directly from individuals. Instead, join appropriate academic networks and look for calls for conference submissions sent to the academic community.
  • Check if there is a review process for submissions: quality conferences usually receive a large number of submissions, not all of which will be accepted. Be wary of promises of instant, automatic acceptance as this may indicate no quality control on the content of the conference. In computer science, there is a culture of publishing in conferences as the main dissemination route for research outcomes. Conference paper submissions in computer science are therefore often peer-reviewed.
  • Establish the process for publication of papers: conferences often produce proceedings containing all or selected papers from the conference. Check if publication of the proceedings is intended and what you can expect in terms of editorial processes.  If there is a promise to publish in a journal or proceedings, check the quality of the journal in advance of submitting it to the conference.

Choosing a book publisher

In some disciplines, publishing a scholarly monograph has more prestige than publishing in peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings. This is particularly the case in the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS).

Monographs are distinguished from textbooks in that they communicate the author’s original research and are written for the author’s academic peers/recognised experts in the field; whereas textbooks are primarily educational material for taught students. Textbooks are rarely considered research outputs, and therefore not REF-eligible.

Choosing a publisher

If you are planning for a monograph, you will have to identify a publishing house that is most relevant to your research field. Some academic publishers have a diverse portfolio and will publish books in many disciplines, other publishers specialise in specific fields. A fundamental choice is whether you are aiming at a small expert audience or at a wider cross-disciplinary or even non-academic audience. It may be smart to identify a book series with a respected editorial board – this may help you to maximise the impact in your field.

When choosing a publishing house, you could take the following factors into account:

  • Academic weight: Does the publishing house or book series offer a peer review process? This may or may not be essential for your purposes (e.g. for future career progression or submission to the REF).
  • Prestige: Are you looking for a prestigious publisher where competition may be greater, or a younger press that may focus on offering a good personal service and where acceptance may be less competitive?
  • Speed: Will the publisher be able to meet your deadlines, if any, depending on personal requirements or those of your funder or employer?
  • Added value: Does the publishing house offer services such as: design and layout of your monograph (including designing the cover), indexing, copy-editing and proof-reading, good review coverage, and a wide and effective promotion of your monograph?
  • Pricing policy: How does the (likely) price the publishing house will sell your monograph for, compare to similar books on the target market? Does this help you to achieve your aims and reach your intended audience?

Please be aware that some publishers operate an exploitative business model by charging publication fees without providing proper editorial and publishing services; this is sometimes referred to as ‘predatory publishing’. These publishers often get directly in touch with you with an unsolicited offer that sounds too good to be true. Often they only do the minimal peer review process, if any at all, and sometimes even guarantee acceptance. These publishers only provide a minimum amount of services, excluding functions such as design, copy-editing, advertising and promoting your monograph. Some publishers may also ask you for a fee, which may not always be clear upfront. Finally, you may be required to sign a copyright agreement in which you sign over all rights to your work. 

The Think, Check, Submit: books and chapters site also provides some great advice for checking if a publisher is trusted and right for your work.

Open Access Monograph publishing

Just as for journal articles, it is possible to publish a monograph via Open Access. This may require an author fee. Some publishers will make an electronic Open Access version of your monograph available online whilst also selling hard or paperbacks via print-on-demand. There are many other business models.

Publishing Open Access monographs is a new phenomenon which has so far been received with caution by the AHSS academic community. Initial findings suggest that an Open Access monograph may get more downloads than pay-to-view digital copies, and may open up a wider readership from a broader range of countries. Making a monograph available via Open Access could even increase print sales. However royalties are likely to be reduced and the usually guaranteed ‘long tail’ of print monograph sales is likely to be eroded. Monographs are exempt from REF 2021 open access requirements, so the decision on this rests with the author and their institution.

Publishers offering Open Access monograph publishing are, amongst others:

Commercial University presses, such as Cambridge University Press and Manchester University Press
Open Access (‘new’) University presses – these publish journals and monographs irrespective of institutional affiliation and after scrutiny by an editorial board, such as UCL Press, White Rose University Press and University of Westminster Press
Open Access monograph publishers, of which Open Book Publishers and Ubiquity Press are probably the best-known examples
Commercial publishers with an Open Access option, such as Palgrave Open, Brill Open, Springer Open and Routledge Books Open Access
If you are unsure about the credibility of an Open Access publisher you can check:

Whether their monographs are included in the OAPEN library
Whether their monographs are included in the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)
Whether they are a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)

These publishers are meeting strict criteria to show their commitment to quality assurance, e.g. they have a proper peer review process. For more information see:
E. Collins, C. Milloy and G. Stone, ‘Guide to Open Access Monograph Publishing for Arts, Humanities and Social Science Researchers’ (2015): http://dx.doi.org/10.5920/oapen-uk/oaguide

Use the Think, Check, Submit: books and chapters site for further advice on checking if an Open Access publisher is trusted.

The OAPEN Open Access Books Toolkit is a very useful resource if you are considering publishing an Open Access book.  The accompanying FAQs are also useful for answering your Open Access book publishing questions.

Book chapters – ‘Green’ Open Access

If you are contributing a book chapter to an edited work, it is increasingly likely that you will be permitted to archive it in SHURA.   For example, publishers such as ACM digital library, Bloomsbury, Cambridge University Press, Routledge and Sage now allow the upload of manuscripts of book chapters (often with some restrictions).  To find out what is allowed by your publisher, you can check the information about Open Access provided on your publisher’s web pages or Cambridge University maintain a list of publisher policies on their page about Making book chapters available in repositories.

When depositing a book chapter on SHURA, where possible attach the accepted manuscript to the record.  The SHURA team will check your publisher’s policy and contact you if necessary.

Responsible use of metrics in research assessment

It is important to understand the limitations of any metrics you use and to use them for appropriate purposes.

Please read the SHU guide to responsible metrics.

SHU is also a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). This is a set of recommendations for funding agencies, institutions, publishers, researchers and other stakeholders, to improve practices in research assessment and is about about using quantitative indicators (metrics) responsibly.  

The Metrics toolkit is a great source of information about using metrics responsibly, including the limitations and use cases for individual indicators.

You may find the short video useful: The Leiden Manifesto for Research Metrics from Diana Hicks, et al. on Vimeo. It describes 10 principles to guide the use of metrics in research evaluation and is a video version of the Nature paper: Hicks, D., Wouters, P., Waltman, L.,  de Rijke, S. & Rafols I. (2015). The Leiden Manifesto for research metrics: use these 10 principles to guide research evaluation. Nature, April 23, 520:429-431. doi:10.1038/520429a.

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA)

Signatory of DORA badge

The San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is a set of recommendations for funding agencies, institutions, publishers, researchers and other stakeholders, to improve practices in research assessment.

Sheffield Hallam University signed DORA on the 7th May 2019.

DORA is about using quantitative indicators (metrics) responsibly.  The key recommendation is not to use journal level metrics as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles, or an individual academic’s contributions to their field, or for hiring, promotion, and funding decisions. While DORA focuses on eliminating the inappropriate use of journal metrics, it also covers more general issues with the use of metrics.

You can read the declaration including the recommendations on the DORA website.

We also recommend that you read the SHU guide to responsible metrics, which provides the SHU community with a set of principles outlining good practice in research assessment and the use of quantitative indicators.

If you have any questions about metrics and research assessment, please contact the Library Research Support Team: