Where Should I Publish?


Selecting a scientific journal to submit your article to is an important part of the publishing process.  You definitely want to communicate your findings to researchers in your area of study.  Reaching a wider audience could help you secure funding, boost your CV, and identify research partners.  There are thousands of journals published in almost every field imaginable.  New journals are launched each week.  You don’t want to risk months of delay by sending your article to a publication that is out of scope, has an overly onerous acceptance process or has a bad reputation.  At this point in your career you may be part of a research team, and the publication venue might be the decision of the principal investigator.  However, one day you will be the principal investigator and it is helpful to know all the criteria involved in selecting the right journal.

Journal impact factor (JIF) is one way to measure the quality of an academic journal.  JIF is calculated by dividing the total number of citations a journal receives by the total number of articles it published in a two year period.  For example, if the articles in Journal X received 1000 citations as a group and Journal X published 100 articles in that time period- the impact factor would be 10.  To find the JIF for a title you are considering you can look in the database Journal of Citation Reports (on the Database A-Z List).  Journal of Citation Reports not only shows information for individual tiles but allows you to rank journals in a specific field by impact factor.  JIF is widely used by scientists, librarians and publishers but it is not the only indicator of a quality journal [1]

A reputable journal will have a solid peer-review process in place and a publicly listed editor or editorial board2. Read the Author Information and Submission Guidelines sections carefully for each journal you are considering.  Make sure the publishing process and timeline is well detailed.  If there are fees involved, make sure understand what they are for and check to see if they are covered by your department or grant.

Before submitting an article to a journal it is essential that you check the journal website for information on the scope, depth and format of accepted articles. Understanding the scope of a journal is also a good way to pinpoint its key audience or readership.  You want to choose a journal that is well read by other scientists in your field.  If you are just getting started and want to find a list of journals that publish on certain topics, do a keyword search in a database like Web of Science.  You can then filter results by date and journal title.  Also make you’re your manuscript type (review article, evidence summary, primary research article, etc.) is a good match for the journal.

The best person to ask for advice is your advisor or other scientists in your field.  BIOS Professor Emily Minor says that while she doesn’t have standard advice, she considers “research focus, journal impact factor, cost and length of time for reviews” important criteria.  She recognizes that “there are so many journals that it rarely seems completely obvious where to submit”.  Networking sites, such as Mendeley, can also suggest journal titles that publish in your discipline or on your topic of study. Another possible source of journals is your own reading list.  Review the articles you cite in your paper and in previous papers.  What journals do you trust for the most recent updates in your field?

Publishers themselves offer help through journal selecting tool like Elsevier’s Match Your Manuscript feature. To use this tool you enter the title, abstract and subject area of your paper and Elsevier finds journals that match the topic included in your description.  Another publisher, Springer, offers a similar Journal Suggester. Many vendors offer this type of service but they only suggest journals that they publish. If you use EndNote to organize and store citations, it has a Match feature similar to vendor searches, but that recommends titles from multiple publishers.

Beware of predatory journals that solicit articles but have questionable editorial practices or charge high fees.  The reputation of your research can be tarnished if you publish in a non-reputable journal.  Investigate journals that you aren’t sure about.  Do you recognize the authors publishing in it? Is it easy to find its articles through Google Scholar or a library database?  Did you hear about it through an impersonal mass email?  If you are unsure about a journal or publisher ask your advisor or a senior member of your research team.

There is a lot to consider when selecting a journal to publish in.  A 2008 study of university faculty across STM fields identified 16 different attributes of a quality journal, the top three being journal reputation, time of publishing/review process and readership of the journal [2].  For more information about academic journals and tools to find the right journal for your research, review the UIC Library page on Scholarly Publishing.  If you have questions about finding JIF or using Journal of Citation Reports email me (clantz@uic.edu).

[1] Shokraneh, F., Ilghami, R., Masoomi, R., & Amanollahi, A. (2012). How to select a journal to submit and publish your biomedical paper? Bioimpacts, 2(1), 61-68. doi:10.5681/bi.2012.008

[2] Regazzi, J. J., & Aytac, S. (2008). Author perceptions of journal quality. Learned Publishing, 21(3), 225-235. doi:10.1087/095315108X288938