Learning Objectives

  • Recognize that scholarly journals differ in their policies, procedures, practices, etc.
  • Determine the suitability of a scholarly journal for publishing your work by evaluating the journal according to your needs and priorities as an author.

While scholarly journals share some elements in common — such as using peer review and having a narrow, specialized focus — they also differ in important ways. For example:

  • Some journals use double-blind peer review, while others use another model such as single-blind peer review (in which the authors do not know the identity of the reviewers, but the reviewers know the authors’ identities) or open peer review (both authors and reviewers know one another’s identities), or some other model.
  • Some journals are well-established and have been publishing scholarship for decades, while others are less than a year old.
  • Some journals require authors to transfer their copyright to the publisher, thus limiting or relinquishing their (the authors’) right to use/re-use their own work in the future, while others allow authors to retain their copyright and ask them instead to grant the journal the non-exclusive right to publish the work.
  • Some journals ask authors to pay a fee (an “APC,” or article processing charge) if they (the authors) want to make their accepted article available open access, while others offer open access publishing to authors for free.

We will go into more detail about copyright, open access, and publication ethics in subsequent chapters, but the point here is that not all journals are alike. As a potential author, you need to ask yourself which journal is truly the best fit for your work and your needs. For example, if name recognition is the most important factor to you, you will likely want to pursue publication in a journal that has been operating for several years. On the other hand, if you seeking the widest possible dissemination of your article and there’s an open access journal in your field, you might choose it instead. Your decisions will depend on your priorities. 

That being said, there is a baseline criterion that should always be met, and that is ensuring that you choose a reputable journal publisher. Unfortunately, there are instances of bogus or “predatory” publishers that defraud authors, typically charging a submission fee but not delivering the standard publication services that journals offer. There are resources that can help you determine whether or not a journal is reputable, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a helpful checklist from Think.Check.Submit, or this infographic created by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL):


Large rectangular infographic with portrait (vertical) orientation, titled “How to Assess a Journal: A.K.A. How not to publish in an undesirable journal. Underneath the title there is a gray section titled “Key Things to Consider When Assessing a Journal”* *It’s up to you to weigh these factors in order to make your decision. Underneath that heading, the first point has an image of an envelope and reads “Don’t trust unsolicited emails. If a call for submission does not come from a trusted source, treat it as spam.” To the right, an arrow points to a white rectangle with an image of a black triangle and a white exclamation mark inside it. The text “Be similarly wary of unsolicited offers to join editorial boards or conference invitations” is next to the triangle. The second has an image of a computer tablet screen and reads “Review several issues of the journal. Check for writing and research quality, relevance to discipline and adequate copy editing.” To the right, an arrow points to a white box which shows a black checkmark and contains the text “While you’re at it . . . If your research grant or institution requires that your article be openly available, make sure the journal’s policy allows this.” The third point has an image of a rudimentary website and reads “Review the journal website. It should contain: a clear and appropriate scope; an editorial board with recognized experts and current contact information for them; a description of the peer review process; transparent information about whether article processing charges (APCs) or other fees are charged.” To the right, an arrow points to a white box with an image of a bomb and the text reads “Two journals can have similar names but different reputations: don’t mistake one journal for another.” The fourth point has an image of a black arrow trending upward and reads “Check that any impact metrics listed by the journal are recognized and reputable, e.g., Journal Impact Factor, H-index, Eigenfactor.” To the right, a white box with a bold black exclamation mark contains the test “Beware: there are a number of made-up metrics on the Internet.” To the right of all the aforementioned content, there is a green section with two gray diamond shapes. The top one says “Open Access” and has an open lock symbol. The bottom one says “Check to see if OA journals are listed at doaj.org. Note: Very new journals will not be listed.” Below and to the left, there is another green section that reads “Still Unsure?” There are three points listed underneath. The first has an image of a black dialog bubble and the text says “Check with your colleagues and peers in your field.” The second has an image of black eyeglasses and reads “Get help from a librarian at your institution.” The third has an image of a black check mark inside a circle and reads “Visit thinkchecksubmit.org for more useful tips.” To the right, there is another gray section titled “Neutral Factors: The following factors are not indicative of journal quality: Lack of impact metrics - Not all reputable journals display impact metrics. Geographical location of publisher - Journal publishing is a global pursuit. Article Processing Charges (APCs) - Reputable open access journals operate under a variety of business models, including many who use APCs. Reputation of other journals by the same publisher - A publisher can be responsible for both highly respected and less reputable journals.” At the bottom of the infographic is a dark gray section with a CC-BY license and the text “This guide was produced by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries and can be modified and re-used freely under the CC-BY license.” At the right is a logo that resembles a network and the acronym CARL ABRC.
“How to Assess a Journal.” Canadian Association of Research Libraries. https://www.carl-abrc.ca/how-to-assess-a-journal/

Once you have determined that a journal is indeed reputable, reflect on whether or not it is a good fit for your work specifically. What qualities are important to you as an author, and does the journal meet those needs? Are there other journals that you want to explore before you commit to submitting to this one?

Then, after you read the section on “Some (Problems),” your priorities may change or become clearer to you, and you may wish to revisit this chapter.

Exercise: Selecting a Journal

Consider the following scenarios to determine the most appropriate journal for the faculty or student authors described below. Explain your choice by describing what factors shaped your decision.

Mari is an early-career faculty member in the Spanish department of her university. She would like to submit an article about developing an on-campus Spanish writing center to a journal. Because she is up for review later this year, she is tight on time and wants to publish sooner rather than later (or at least have an article accepted for publication). After researching possible journals, she has chosen 1) the Writing Center Journal, 2) the ADFL Bulletin, and 3) Hispania as potential journals for her work. Which journal do you think Mari should pursue, and why?

Daveed is an undergraduate student majoring in Biology. He has conducted a research study under the supervision of his faculty mentor, Dr. Stine. Daveed is planning to attend graduate school and would like to publish his research findings. Dr. Stine has given her support. But Daveed isn’t sure which journal is the best fit for his work. He knows that Dr. Stine has published an article in Current Biology so he’d like to explore it. After some preliminary searching, he also discovered the American Journal of Undergraduate Research (AJUR) and Bios. Of these three journals, which would you advise Daveed to submit to, and why?

Anj is a tenured faculty member who is pursuing promotion to Full Professor. They teach Leadership Studies and possesses expertise on emotional intelligence (also known as “EQ”) in higher education settings. They are nearing completion of an empirical qualitative study and have begun thinking about where to publish their findings. They have been invited to contribute an article to Educational Leadership for an upcoming special issue on EQ. They regularly consult Human Resource Development Quarterly and frequently cite articles from the Journal of Leadership Studies in their work. Which of these publications is a good fit to publish their research, and why?




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