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Writing, Citing, & Publishing

Learn about resources to help you through the writing and publication process.

Navigating the Publishing Process

Where should I submit my paper?

This is a common question! Consider the following tips when deciding where to submit your work:

Getting Started
  • If possible, identify a target journal before you start writing your paper. Each journal has unique manuscript guidelines, so deciding on a journal early in the writing process will help you tailor your paper to the journal's specifications. 
  • Review the instructions to authors or author guidelines of your target journal. A quick Google search for the author guidelines will usually suffice, but you can also try using the Instructions to Authors tool from Mulford Library. 
Finding Journals 
  • Search PubMed or another database for keywords related to your topic. Looking at the search results, analyze the journals that have published articles on similar topics. Look at the journal's website to see the mission, aim, & scope of the journal, information for authors, and to see other articles they have recently published.
  • If you find a recent article that is very similar in topic to yours, in addition to considering the journal within which it was published, examine its list of cited works and its literature review for other potential journals in which to publish.
  • Tools that can help:
    • JANE (Journal Author Name Estimator): Enter the title, abstract, or keywords for your paper, and find a suitable journal to submit it to for publication.
    • EndNote Web: Login to EndNote Web, click on the "Match" tab. Enter the title of your article and the abstract, and EndNote will return a list of suggested journals for your topic.
    • Elsevier Journal Finder: Enter the title and abstract of your paper and find a journal that might be suitable to submit it to for publication.
    • SPI-Hub (Scholarly Publishing Information Hub): Vanderbilt (VUMC) developed portal that includes the ability to search journals by name, topic of interest/research, or author (e.g., using an ORCID ID) and view publishing practices and quality criteria for each retrieved journal.
Considerations When Selecting a Journal

Choose a journal that is realistically within reach. Yes, the top-tier journals with high impact factors look great on your CV, but those journals may not be interested in your topic and receive many submissions. A journal's impact factor is only one measure of its reputation. You should consider the size of the journal's readership and whether the journal generally publishes articles in your sub-discipline or on your topic. Objectively consider how important your research is and what level and/or type of journal it is best suited for; otherwise, you may find yourself wasting valuable time submitting to one journal after another.

Choose a journal that specializes in your sub-area. With the proliferation of specialized and interdisciplinary journals, consider a journal that is especially geared toward your niche area. If your research is applied, you should target a journal that publishes applied science; if it is clinical, you should target a clinical journal; if it is basic research, you should target a journal that publishes basic research. Those journals are more likely to reach your target audience. 

Choose a journal that permits self-archiving. Many journal publishers now allow authors to post the final version on the author’s website and/or institutional repository such as DigitalHub. Check the Sherpa/Romeo website to see if a journal permits self-archiving, or Transpose, which provides more information on preprint policies of journals: licensing restrictions on preprints, whether an author can cite preprints in the references, etc. It is important to have the option to make your work open access to other scholars. Studies have shown that articles that are open access are more highly cited.

Contributions and Attributions

Many questionable journals send invitations to publish in future issues or serve on editorial boards. Before submitting an article or agreeing to a seat on an editorial board, investigate the reputation and legitimacy of the journal.

Fortunately, opportunistic journals are detectable.

Predatory publishers share several characteristics:
  • They engage in questionable business practices, such as charging excessive author fees or failing to disclose publication fees to potential authors.
  • They fail to follow accepted standards of scholarly publishing, particularly in regards to peer review.
  • They exist to make money by taking advantage of the "author-pays model" of open access journal publishing,* and have no interest in promoting scholarship or advancing knowledge.

*Charging authors/funding bodies to publish articles open access is a model used by many reputable journal publishers and is not the single factor used to determine if a journal should be considered "predatory."

Steps to Determine Whether a Journal or Publisher is Predatory:
  1. Visit the journal's website. Some publishers' websites appear professionally created and managed, however closer inspection may reveal poor design, typographical errors, and grammatical errors that would not appear on a reputable publisher's site. Be cautious of those that provide only web contact forms.
  2. Review the journal's scope as described on the website. Most questionable journals have scopes so broad that they will publish articles on nearly any topic.
  3. Check if the journal is indexed in subject specific library databases by a major journal abstracter / indexer.  Is the journal indexed in your discipline's major article databases? See if the journal is indexed in databases such as PubMed, Scopus, or Web of Science. 
  4. Find out whether the journal is a member of an industry association that vets its members, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (www.oaspa.org).
  5. Scan the journal's table of contents and editorial board list:  Do you recognize any of the published authors or members of the board?  Are any of the board members senior scholars in the field? Are they all junior members or unknowns in the field? What are their affiliated institutions? Do the board members list their participation with the journal on their CVs or web-bios at their institutions? Finally, you can contact board members or authors and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
  6. Examine articles that appear in the journal and judge their caliber. Predatory publishers are not interested in producing journal articles that demonstrate excellent research or that offer compelling arguments, and often lack scholarly screening or quality control.
  7. Check the journal's policies. Examine the publication’s peer-review process, author fees, and policies pertaining to self-archiving, access, and conflicts of interest. All should be clearly outlined on the journal’s website. Unscrupulous publishers may also promise a quick peer-review turnaround. Considering the peer-review process used by reputable journals can take months, a publisher that states their peer-review system takes as little as 21 days is either rushing the process or not doing any peer-review at all.
  8. Check for the author's publication fee schedule. If it does not appear on the website or if the publisher states it will notify authors of the fee after their papers are accepted for publication, the publisher is likely charging excessively high author fees. Legitimate journal publishers make this information easy to find on their website.
  9. Be wary of vague “Contact us” information.  If the journal offers only a "contact us" form without any editorial staff phone or email contact information be concerned. If they list an address, it is oftentimes a P.O. Box or an address that does not seem legitimate when you look it up on a map.
  10. Be suspicious of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members. “If you get an invitation through email, be extremely suspicious,” says Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver “Most high-quality journals don’t go looking for editorial boards through email.”

Tools that can help identify predatory publishers
Is It Peer Reviewed? How Can I Tell?

There are a couple of ways you can tell if a journal is peer-reviewed:

  • If it's online, go to the journal home page and check "Journal Information", "About This Journal", or "Notes for Authors". Often the brief description of the journal will note that it is peer-reviewed or refereed, or will list the Editors or Editorial Board.
  • Databases that you search may have a “peer reviewed” or “refereed” limiter or advance search feature that you can check.
  • BE CAREFUL! A journal can be refereed/peer-reviewed and still have non-peer reviewed articles in it. Generally if the article is an editorial, brief news item or short communication, it's not been through the full peer-review process. Databases like Web of Sciences and Scopus will let you restrict your search only to articles (and not editorials, conference proceedings, etc).