On last week’s blogpost, we focused on tips for identifying “predatory journals”. Those are journals that exploit scientists' need to publish their research by charging publication fees to authors without providing legitimate peer-review or editorial services. If you have not read that blogpost, check it out here.
Now you know which journals to avoid. Let's talk now about how to choose the right journal for your paper.
Given the vast number of scientific journals out there, (as of today, there are 5,635 indexed in Medline, the publisher of PubMed) choosing the right journal for your paper may seem like a daunting task, but it’s one of the key factors that will determine whether your paper gets published or not. Here are 7 things to consider when making your selection.
1. Consider the journals you have cited most in your paper’s list of references: It may be a great starting point to look at the journals that published the articles you’re using as background information for your research paper. Notice if many of those papers have been published in the same journal. If so, then you may want to consider this journal as a possible option for your own publication because it may mean that they tend to publish papers in your area of research.
2. Look into the journals published by an organization that you belong to, such as a professional society: You may have presented an abstract of the paper you’re trying to publish at a conference of a professional society. Notice that many professional societies not only organize scientific conferences but also publish a journal. This journal may be a great fit for your paper because they may have already published your abstract and it may be a journal that is read by your peers who may also be members of this organization.
3. Consider journals that cater to the professional group that you want to reach: Think about who may be the experts most interested in your research. Will you be catering to academic researchers, public health practitioners, health care providers? Keep in mind that the content and information within your paper should be as relevant and helpful as possible to the specific audience of experts you’re targeting. The audience you ar trying to reach may or may not be very similar to you. For example, you may be a basic scientist, but a particular paper that you are working on has applied clinical implications. In that case, you may want to send this paper to a journal that is read by clinicians. Thus, ask yourself if there is a journal that caters to the specific group of professionals who would most benefit from reading your paper.
4. Factor in the “impact factor”: A journal’s impact factor is a measure of its influence within the scientific community. When choosing a journal for publishing, you should consider that some journals are more prestigious than others. For example, Science, Nature and Cell are considered to be some of the most prestigious journals out there. Having publications in these journals is regarded as equivalent or even more valuable than having a lot of publications in journals with lower impact factors; in fact, that’s what some of the most respected scientists do, it’s a quality over quantity type of approach. However, for most scientists, it is best to take a realistic approach to choosing a journal. Overshooting to a high impact factor journal can be a waste of time if your paper is not at that level. Be realistic and choose a journal that has a good impact factor that is within your reach for that particular paper.
5. Make sure that you are considering journals that publish the type of paper you want to write: There are several types of research papers such as reviews, case studies, commentaries, in addition to original research papers. For instance, if you are planning to write a case study, and the journal that you are aiming for doesn’t publish those, you need to find another journal. So make sure that the type of paper you are aiming to write fits what the journal usually accepts.
6. Check out the amount of time it takes from submission to publication: This is an item that is often overlooked, but it is important. Not all journals publish at the same pace. Whether a journal is slow or relatively fast to publication may be more or less of a factor to you depending on your particular situation. For example, you may need a relatively fast publication because you are finishing a training program or you are coming up for promotion.
To compare the relative pace of publication between journals that you are considering, make sure to check out how often the journal is published. Is it a weekly, monthly, or quarterly publication? A second consideration is the amount of time it takes between submission and publication, termed the "paper wait" (for more on this, check out this blogpost). To determine this paper wait, you can take a look at articles that were recently published in the journal. On the title page, there should be the date of submission and the date the article was accepted. This will give you an idea of how long the journal takes to review, accept and publish submitted papers.
7. Open Access or not: Open access refers to the practice of journals to charge the authors for publishing their papers. This allows the journal to make the paper available to all readers online, regardless of whether they have a subscription. The topic of open access is complicated, so I think I will write a separate blogpost on this. For now, suffice it to say that it should be one of the factors that you need to consider when choosing a journal. To clarify, we are talking here about high-quality open access, not the predatory type we talked about in the earlier post. Many legitimate journals are now offering an open access option in addition to the traditional publication format. Authors may be asked to choose whether they want to pay for open access after the paper has been properly reviewed and accepted. As you consider whether to go open access or not, keep in mind that the costs can be quite high, I have paid about $3,000 for open access of one of my papers. So if this is not in your budget, don’t do it. You may still consider the journal for traditional publication if they offer that option.
After applying all seven of these considerations, you may have narrowed down the candidates that you are considering to two or three possible journals. I have created a fill-in form that will help you compare your journal choices side-by-side. The form can be helpful as you go over the advantages and disadvantages of each journal choice and also can help you in your decision-making process as you present your journal options to your collaborators and advisors.
To download a free copy of the journal comparison fill-in forms, go to https://www.writescientificpapers.com/free-fill-in-forms.html
Dr. Luz Claudio is the author of the book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide, a workbook that teaches you precisely what to do and when to do it when writing scientific papers. She is a tenured professor of preventive medicine and has mentored hundreds of students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty. She blogs about life in academia.
1) Choosing the Right Journal for Your Research
2) The Thomson Reuters Impact Factor
3) Measuring Your Impact: Impact Factor, Citation Analysis, and other Metrics: Journal Impact Factor (IF) http://researchguides.uic.edu/if/impact
4) Selecting a journal to publish in
5) Tips for finding the right journal
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.