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Scholarly Publishing

Provides information about journals, books, and open access for authors looking to publish scholarly works.

Types of Articles

Primary research results may be published in a variety of ways. For example:

  • A Letter or Brief Communication provides timely release of important research results in a brief format. Typically this is followed by a full research article.
  • A Full Article is a regular, comprehensive report of a research project. A full article might take the form of a:
    • Review Article
    • Scoping Review
    • Systematic Review
  • Conference Proceedings are used for partially finished or ongoing research. Conference proceedings are usually associated with oral presentations or posters at professional conferences.

Identifying a Journal

Things to consider

These questions can help you to identify appropriate journals or conference proceedings in your field:

  • What is the audience for my article? Where does that audience go when they want to read something new in their field?
  • Are there professional societies or organizations for my field? Or perhaps conferences, annual meetings, or other events?
  • Where have colleagues in my field submitted their work?
  • Where was the material I cited in my article published?
  • If I wanted to read articles on a similar topic, where would I find them?
  • Is my article in scope for a journal of interest?
    • Journal publishers typically have a page or section defining their topical scope. See, for example, the "Mission" in the author guidelines for the Journal of Communication.
  • Is the journal accessible to users of all abilities?
  • What is the journal’s impact and reputation?
  • What are the journal’s policies related to submission, open access, and data sharing?

Be realistic about your journal selection (don’t aim too high or too low), but don't let fear of rejection guide your choice.

Resources

These resources and the strategies further below are good starting points for finding relevant journals in your discipline.

  • Cabell's Whitelist. This database provides information about journals’ areas of focus, acceptance rates, and submission policies. As of 2018, the University of Michigan subscribes to the database for education and library science journals.
  • Journal / Author Name Estimator. This tool allows you to compare your work to published articles in PubMed to approximate possible publication venues for work in the health sciences.
  • MLA Directory of Periodicals. This resource within the MLA International Bibliography describes the scope of journals in many areas of literature and language study, including circulation figures, submission guidelines, information on whether or not journals are peer reviewed, and publication statistics.
  • Subject Specialists at the University of Michigan Library. Librarians in your subject area can help you work through the questions above and find other scholarship in your field. They may also be able to help you find discipline-specific resources on where to publish.
  • U-M Library Search. Use Library Search to discover databases in your discipline and access full text using your U-M credentials. Disciplinary indexes and databases are the best way to find articles like your own, and every subject area has its own specialized resources.

Strategies

Search general databases like Web of Science and Scopus to identify journals that publishing articles on your topic. See a list of U-M databases or Research Guides for your discipline for more specific databases.

  • Search Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory, which provides bibliographic and publisher information on more than 300,000 periodicals of all types.
  • Scan online lists of journals within specific disciplines (e.g., a comprehensive Chemistry Journal list from a researcher at the University of Cambridge).
  • 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:
  • Check the list of references you have been reading for your research and identify the journals where your peer researchers publish articles on the topic of interest.

Note: For a comprehensive resource on article publishing (written from a biological sciences perspective, but widely applicable), see:

Cover art of the book "How to Publish in the Biological Sciences"

Measey, J. (2022). How to Publish in Biological Sciences (1st Edition). CRC Press.

 

Evaluating a Journal

Narrowing the selection

Consider the following to narrow down your selection of journals: 

  • Editorial board. Look at the journal's editorial board. Are any of its members in your sub-field?
  • Article "fit". Look at a few issues of the journal and the information provided on the journal’s webpage. Does your article fit within the journal’s typical subject areas and scope? Does the methodology of your work fit what this journal typically publishes? (e.g. quantitative, qualitative, case study, survey, meta-analysis, etc.)? Journals that publish articles on similar topics to yours are likely to be read most heavily by researchers with similar interests.
  • Journal Metrics. Are metrics like impact factor or Eigenfactor important in your discipline? If so, sources like these can help locate the relevant metrics for journals you are considering:
  • 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
  • Eigenfactor.org - 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).
  • Other ways of evaluating journal "impact" include:
    • Who is on the journal's editorial board or publishing in the journal? Are they recognized scholars in your field?
    • Examine Google Scholar Metrics or Google Scholar Citations, if available.
    • Is the journal indexed in databases relevant to your field? (e.g. JSTOR, Web of Science, MLA, etc.)
    • Is the journal affiliated with a professional organization, scholarly society, or conference relevant to your subject area?

Other criteria

Other criteria to keep in mind when considering where to publish your research include:

  • Acceptance rate. A journal's acceptance may be difficult to determine, though 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 may be single-blind, double-blind, or triple-blind; 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.

Meet basic requirements

Make sure your submission meets the publisher's basic requirements. Most journals provide instructions online for authors. Read them carefully and follow specific instructions such as word limits, preferred citation styles, document formatting, file types, etc. If you're not sure about where you'd like to submit but you have a target publication in mind, work from the author requirements for you target publisher from the start to make it easier to submit your work for publication (and prevent headaches) later on.

Predatory Journals

Some open access journals exist only to extract article processing/publication fees and provide no "value-added" services in return (e.g., rigorous peer review, professional formatting, indexing in major databases, etc.). Keep these things in mind when considering where to publish:

  • Reputable journals and conferences don’t make cold calls. Be exceedingly wary of unsolicited calls for proposals sent to you via email by people you do not know.
  • Consider the entity suspect if questions about peer review, selection criteria, fees, business models, or organizational affiliation cannot be answered. Do not agree to submit manuscripts to, review submissions for, or join the editorial board of a journal you are not intimately familiar with. Speak to editors, other authors, and staff to determine if a journal or conference is legitimate.
  • Fact check any claims made by the publisher or conference organizer. If they list someone as a member of their editorial board, confirm that with the person in question. If they claim an impact factor or inclusion in a disciplinary index, independently confirm those details.
  • Make sure your own professional online presence is accurate and up to date. Having correct information about yourself on a departmental, institutional, or personal website is the best way to combat your name appearing on disreputable journal editorial boards or conference sites. Make it easier for others to perform the kind of due diligence described  above.
  • Talk to your colleagues about how to avoid being duped by predatory publishers. These publishers typically trick unsuspecting academics—sometimes even respected, senior scholars—into recruiting colleagues for suspect editorial boards or soliciting their own networks for article submissions.
  • When in doubt about the authenticity of a journal or conference, talk to a librarian. The best defense against being duped by a predatory publisher is a strong understanding of the publishing landscape in your own field. To learn more about where and how scholars in your discipline share their work, contact your librarian.
  • Be wary also if the promised submission-to-publication delay seems too short for sufficient peer review or article processing/publication fees are not mentioned until after the article has been accepted.

Note: This material was adapted from Meredith Kahn, "Sharing your scholarship while avoiding the predators: Guidelines for medical physicists interested in open access publishing," Medical Physics 41, no. 7 (July 2014). Licensed under CC BY 3.0.

Peer Review for Articles

"Peer review" is the process by which "peers" —those who possess the appropriate expertise— review a manuscript submitted for publication in order to assess the suitability of the manuscript for publication. The process starts when an author submits an article to a journal. Typically a managing editor determines if it is suitable for review. If not, the submission is immediately rejected without being sent out to peer reviewers. If it is suitable, the submission is distributed to peer reviewers.

Peer reviewers then recommend acceptance without revision, acceptance pending revision, or rejection. If revisions are required, the author will make revisions and resubmit the revised article to the managing editor. If the managing editor or peer reviewers determine if revisions are sufficient, the article is accepted for publication (though additional revisions may be required). Alternatively, the article may be rejected.

Few articles are accepted without revisions. Being asked to revise your work is a foundational practice in scholarly publishing, and often results in the work being stronger after it has undergone review.

This article provides insight into what reviewers are looking for when they evaluate article submissions:

How to Review a Paper, by Dale J. Benos, Kevin L. Kirk, and John E. Hall. Though focused on the sciences, the guidelines it contains can be useful to authors in many disciplines.

Suggesting Peer Reviewers

Many journals ask for a list of potential peer reviewers for your article. Consider these suggestions in recommending potential peer reviewers:

  • DO suggest researchers whom you frequently cite in your article. 
  • DO suggest researchers with whom you have had positive interactions with in the past, such as during a conference poster session. 
  • DON'T suggest personal friends, close colleagues (i.e., people with whom you've published in the last 5 years), former supervisors, or individuals who have previously read and provided feedback on your article. 
  • DON'T suggest only the biggest names in your field. 
  • Keep in mind that the journal editor may not follow your suggestions. They may choose not to send your article to a reviewer who is notoriously slow, brash, or does not provide solid reasoning behind his/her criticisms. 
  • Some journals may also ask for a list of individuals who should NOT review your article. These might be researchers who have strong, opposing viewpoints or individuals with whom you have had negative interactions with in the past. Be sure to keep this list relatively short. 

For further guidance, see Guidelines for suggesting peer reviewers for manuscripts. John Dolbow, iMechanica (2008).

Responding to Peer Review

The editor of a journal can be a valuable source of guidance in responding to peer review. Here is some additional guidance:

  • Provide point-by-point replies to each of the reviewers' comments. Indicate whether or how you changed your article to address each of the comments. If you disagree with a reviewer, explain the reason for your disagreement.
  • Be brief. Shorter responses convey that the comment was easily addressed and does not present a major problem.
  • If a reviewer was confused or mistaken about something in your article, this suggests that this part of the article needs to be edited or rewritten for clarification. If the reviewer was confused, other readers may also be confused.

These resources may also be helpful for understanding and responding to peer review: