As a researcher you will be encouraged to publish in quality, high impact scholarly journals. It is important that you know what to look for in a journal aside from a high impact factor.
Scholarly journals generally have an editorial board, use some type of peer review process and will publish the primary results of research and summaries or reviews of previous research in their field of academic interest. They may also include academic book reviews. Many but not all professional journals are also peer reviewed.
Articles in popular journals and trade publications on the other hand are generally not peer reviewed, they favor a much more informal writing style, and often have no, or only very brief, bibliographies.
The best quality journals are always peer reviewed or refereed. Manuscripts submitted to this type of journal must be evaluated by an editor, an editorial panel or a panel of experts (peers) in the field before being accepted for publication. In blinded peer review, the author's name and institution are concealed from the reviewer in order to reduce reviewer bias.
A journal’s editorial policy and/or instructions for authors will often indicate if and how articles are peer reviewed. This information is usually located on the publisher’s web site and in at least one printed issue of the journal each year. This is also where you will find the scope and editorial focus of the journal to check
You can also check Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory to see if your journal title is refereed. Searches of Ulrich's normally pull up a list of journals. Refereed journals have to the left of the journal name. More detailed information on searching Ulrich's is available here.
Widely indexed articles are more likely to be found by other researchers during their literature review process and a quality journal will be indexed in one or more major journal indexes. Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory lists the databases in which a journal is indexed. When you've selected the journal you're looking for, you'll get a record for that journal that has several expandable sections at the bottom of the entry, one of which is Online availability. When you click on this section you'll get a list of databases in which the article is indexed.
Circulation count is one measure of the journal’s audience and hence the potential exposure for your article. Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory provides circulation data where available. This information is on the Basic Description tab. Some publishers’ web sites may also provide this information.
A journal's acceptance rate refers to the number of manuscripts accepted for publication relative to the number of manuscripts submitted within the last year. Journals with lower acceptance rates are considered to be more prestigious. Information about finding journal acceptance rates is located here.
The editor and members of the editorial board should be well-known and respected in the field. They should not all be associated with the same institution, and should be from different geographical locations.
Early career researchers may find it difficult to have their work accepted in the top tier journals. With a rejection rate up to 90% of all submitted articles in the highest ranked journals, even good work is often rejected due to lack of space or because it does not match the current editorial focus.
In some fields it may be the discipline favorite rather than the highest ranked journals where your colleagues are reading and publishing.
It is, therefore, important to look widely when choosing a journal. Check where other researchers in your field are publishing by scanning reference lists or bibliographies in relevant books, book chapters and articles and your own lists of cited references. Also look for lists of journals in guides to the literature for your discipline and ask your colleagues for their recommendations.
You may also wish to consider publishing in one of the open access journals now available. An increasing number of these are now peer reviewed and some are very well regarded and have quite high journal impact factors. The Directory of Open Access Journals lists many of these titles.
Some content courtesy of Griffith University Library.
Much of the content of this guide is based on a guide created at University of Michigan Library and which can be viewed here. Thank you to the group that created that guide and allowed us to make use of the content for our own guide.