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Publishing in the Sciences

Key steps and resources for publishing research articles in Science areas.

Factors to consider

When deciding where to submit your manuscript, choose a journal where your article can make the highest impact. Here are factors you should consider:

  • Journal scope

  • Journal impact and reputation

  • Journal policies

  • Accessibility of journal articles

Types of articles

Primary research results can be published though one of the following types of articles:

  • Letters or Brief Communications - for timely release of import research results in a brief format. Usually a full research article would follow.

  • Full Article - a regular, comprehensive report of a research project.

  • Conference Proceedings - for partially finished or ongoing research. Usually associated with oral presentations or posters at a professional conference.

Open access journals

Open access (OA) journals provide readers with free and unrestricted access to articles online. Choosing to publish your article in an OA journal ensures that anyone with an internet connection will be able to read your article. Many (but not all) studies show that articles in OA journal are cited more often than articles in traditional subscription-based journals.

The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a complete list of OA journals. 

OA journals often charge authors an article processing or publication fee, which usually ranges between $1000 to $3000. Some journals, such as PLoS journals, may reduce or wave this fee for authors who cannot pay the full amount. 

More information on OA journals, including discounts on article processing/publication fees for University of Michigan authors, can be found in the Scholarly Publishing guide.

Beware of predatory OA journals!

Some OA journals exist only to extract article processing/publication fees and do not provide any "value-added" services in return (e.g., rigorous peer review, professional formatting, indexing in major databases, etc.). A list of suspicious journals is kept up-to-date by a librarian at the University of Colorado Denver. 

Some warning signs of predatory OA journals:

  • The name of the journal appears incompatible with its scope. 
  • You receive spam-like emails from the journal requesting article submissions.
  • The promised submission-to-publication delay seems too short for sufficient peer review.
  • The editor or editorial board members are not clearly identified or do not have scholarly affiliations.
  • The journal website looks unprofessional. 
  • Article processing/publication fees are not mentioned until after the article has been accepted. 

Open Access Explained!

Journal scope - Choose a journal that publishes similar articles

It is important to choose a journal that publishes articles on similar topics as yours because these are the journals that are read most heavily by researchers with similar interests. Here are some ways to find potential journals:

Once you have identified several potential journals, read their ABOUT page and browse through their articles to understand their scope.

Some organizations/publishers also provide Journal Selectors, which are semantics-based tools, for you to choose an appropriate journal by entering your title/abstract and other information. However, these tools usually are limited to journals from a specific publisher or a specific discipline. For example,

Impact and Reputation of a Journal

Many metrics have been developed to measure the influence of journals. For example,

  • Journal Citation Reports - Available through a U-M subscription, Journal Citation Reports can be used to determine the impact factor (IF) of a journal and how the journal is ranked among other journals in the same discipline.

  • - A free and searchable database, Eigenfactor covers the natural and social sciences. 

You may find more ways of ranking journals from the Citation Analysis Guide page (Journal Ranking tab).


Read more on journal impact...

  • Garfield, E., The history and meaning of the journal impact factor. JAMA-Journal of the American Medical Association 2006, 295 (1), 90-93. doi:10.1001/jama.295.1.90
  • Craig, I. D.; Plume, A. M.; McVeigh, M. E.; Pringle, J.; Amin, M., Do open access articles have greater citation impact? A critical review of the literature. Journal of Informetrics 2007, 1 (3), 239-248. doi:10.1016/j.joi.2007.04.001
  • Piwowar, H. A.; Day, R. S.; Fridsma, D. B., Sharing Detailed Research Data Is Associated with Increased Citation Rate. Plos One 2007, 2 (3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000308
  • Piwowar HA, Vision TJ. (2013) Data reuse and the open data citation advantage. PeerJ 1:e175 doi:10.7717/peerj.175

Policies of a journal

Read the journal's Instructions for Authors for information about its policies. Here are a few things to consider.

  • Acceptance rate

A journal's acceptance may be difficult to determine, athough some journals do mention it on their ABOUT or FAQs pages. For example, Science's acceptance rate is less than 7%, Nature's acceptance rate is around 8%, and PNAS's acceptance rate is around 17% . If you cannot find the acceptance rate for the journal in which you are interested, you can contact the editor of the journal or ask a senior researcher in your field about their experience with the journal.   

Read more about acceptance rate on this guide page from the University of North Texas Library.

  • Turn-around time 

Turn-around time is often specified on the journal's ABOUT or FAQs page.Turn-around time may be different for different types of articles (e.g., shorter for a Letter than a full Article in the same journal). 

  • Peer review

Peer review can be either single-blinded or double-blinded; find out by looking at the journal's ABOUT or FAQs page. Sometimes, a journal may ask reviewers to judge the soundness of the methodology and not the perceived importance of the work (e.g. PLoS ONE).

  • Self-archiving 

Find out if a journal allows you to deposit a version of your manuscript into an institutional repository (e.g., Deep Blue) or a repository designated by your funding agency (e.g., PubMed Central by NIH). This information is usually located on the journal's Author's Rights page.