Pitching Articles and Ranking Journals

2 hours

This session introduces students to the basic principles of:

  • Journal ranking.
  • Selecting appropriate journals to submit to.
  • Submitting an article.

All researchers aim to communicate their research findings to a scientific audience in a reputable peer-reviewed journal. This is one of the criteria for assessing the quality of a scholar’s work and thus all scholars need to develop manuscripts and cover letters that capture the attention and approval of editors and reviewers.

To select an appropriate outlet to disseminate their research findings, researchers need to understand journal rankings.

By the end of the session and follow-up activity, students can:

  • Discuss the importance and limitations of the various rankings.
  • Select an appropriate journal for an article from their PhD thesis.
  • Submit an article to an appropriate journal.

As the facilitator
Prepare or source an introduction to journal ranking.

Students read
Garfield, E. (2003). The meaning of the Impact Factor. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology, 3 (2), 363–369.
Publishing quality article in an impact factor journals. Academia Publishing House (2013).

Other references
Fedderke, J. W. (2013). The objectivity of national research foundation peer review in South Africa assessed against bibliometric indexes. Scientometrics, 97(2), 177–206. (Access via your institution).
National Library of Science: MEDLINE Overview.
Scopus database.
Web of Science: Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Journals.

Facilitator/s assess the article that each student prepares for submission and the covering letter.


Time Step Who
30 minutes 1. Introduce journal ranking Facilitator
15 minutes 2. Introduce pitching articles Facilitator
45 minutes 3. Identify relevant journals Small groups by discipline
15 minutes 4. Write a paragraph about a suitable journal Individuals
15 minutes 5. Discuss surprises and challenges Plenary
Own time 6. Prepare an article to submit Individuals
Step 1. Introduce journal ranking
30 minutes

Present an introduction that includes some or all of the following content.

Identify journal metrics:

  • Impact factor.
  • Google Scholar Metrics.
  • h-index.
  • i10-Index.
  • Scopus analytics.

Why journal ranking matters:

  • Appointment and promotion of academic staff or research position.
  • Evaluation of grant applications.
  • Application for consultancy jobs.
  • Global university ranking.

Critique of impact factors:

  • Self-citation: authors cite themselves often to manipulate their metrics.
  • Bias towards English language journals.
  • Field of study that the journal belongs to determine the impact factors.

Predatory publishers and journals:

  • Beall’s list.

Databases of accredited journals:

  • Yale University Library guide.
  • ISI list.
  • IBSS list.
  • Scopus/Elsevier/Science Direct.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals.
  • JStor, AJOL, PLOS One, Taylor and Francis, Taylor and Francis, Biomed Central (BMC), Springer, Sage publications.
  • University library portals.

Determining genuine publishers and relevant journals:
Think. Check. Submit.

Step 2. Introduce pitching articles
15 minutes

Explain that scholars can pitch (or ‘sell’) an article to a journal by:

  • Sending an advance letter, detailing the research, or
  • Sending a cover letter together with the manuscript.

Suggestions for pitching an article:

  • Make sure that the objectives of the article are clear to the editor.
  • Demonstrate that your work builds on the existing literature and contributes

significantly to the body of knowledge.

  • Submit your manuscript to a relevant journal and follow all the instructions to authors.
  • If there is no response after four or five weeks, send a follow-up email to ask about the status of the submission.
  • If the editor or reviewers request revisions (major or minor) to your manuscript, respond carefully to reviewers’ comments and revise the manuscript accordingly.
  • If your manuscript is rejected decision, thank the editor for the comments, address the feedback, and submit the revised article to a different journal.
Step 3. Identify relevant journals
45 minutes

Students working in related disciplines form small groups, about four people in each group. Using indexes, groups identify and discuss journals that are relevant for their work.

Step 4. Write a paragraph about a suitable journal
15 minutes

An exercise for each student:

Identify a new journal you have not heard of before and write a short paragraph about why it is suited for a specific chapter or finding from your dissertation or thesis.

Step 5. Discuss surprises and challenges
15 minutes

In the plenary, students discuss what they learned from the activities, what surprised them, and what challenges they encountered.

Step 6. Prepare an article to submit
Own time

After the session, each student prepares at least one manuscript from their PhD thesis, using the format of the journal they identified during the exercise (Step 4). They submit the prepared manuscript to the facilitator and, later, present their articles in the Manuscript Club


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