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.
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.
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. Consider using journal selectors/finders
You may come across tools that are designed to help you select a journal to publish in. These tools are often limited to journals in a particular field, or to journals from a particular publisher.
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 are concerned about disclosing your abstract, you could consider posting keywords only.
There are other journal selectors also available.
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.
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:
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:
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 author accepted manuscript in a repository such as SHURA, alongside publication in a subscription journal.
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).
Please see our web pages about Open Access and rights retention for more information.
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:
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:
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:
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. Please see this page about DORA and not using journal level metrics inappropriately.
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
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. However, this is not always the case. Some publishers/journals do this without offering peer review or editorial services and without following ethical practices - these disreputable journals are often termed 'predatory'.
If you receive an unsolicited email offering to publish your research, be extra vigilant in checking the quality and trustworthiness of the journal – established publishers do not usually approach scholars.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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) 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: