Skip to main content
Becker Medical Library logotype
Library Quicklinks and Information

Tools for Authors: Selecting a Journal for Publication

This libguide provides guidance for authors in support of their scholarship efforts.

Deciding on a Journal?

Selecting a journal (traditional publication model or open access) for scholarly and professional activities can be a confusing process especially if you are new to the publishing process. Below are links to resources and guidance to help you decide on a journal for publication. There is also a section, "Questionable Indicators," that provides guidance on how to handle solicitations from publishers to serve as a reviewer or to submit a work for review.

Per ICMJE, "authors have a responsibility to evaluate the integrity, history, practices and reputation of the journals to which they submit manuscripts." See: Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, revised December 2016.


Do you want to schedule a Selecting a Journal for Publication session for your group? This session will review how to evaluate the integrity, history, practices and reputation of journals. If you would like to schedule a customized presentation for your department, program or division, please contact Cathy Sarli.

Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Journal

Last updated 30 January 2017

Selecting a journal for scholarly and professional activities can be a confusing process especially if you are new to the publishing process.  As follows are questions that can help with selection of a journal for publication. 

Which journals are used by you or mentors/colleagues? 

Review the journals you use for your research. Which journals do you use frequently to keep track of new developments in your field? Which journals are used by the main researchers in your area of research? Does the professional organization you belong to publish any journals? Also, check with your mentors and colleagues about journals they use—there may be some journals that are highly recommended for your area of research. Select journals may be more prestigious for tenure and promotion for your academic and research institution.

Who is your desired audience?

Knowing the scope and aim of the journal can help assess whether your article will reach the intended audience. If the target audience is international, select a journal with an international focus. If the target audience is limited to a select area of research, select a journal with a narrow focus as opposed to one with a multidisciplinary focus. Topic specific journals may disseminate your work more efficiently to your desired audience than a general science journal. More specialized journals, even with a potentially smaller readership, may offer a broader dissemination of your work to your peers in a specific area of research.

Are you required to comply with public access mandates for sharing of publications and/or data?

Authors whose articles were generated as a result of research funded by organizations such as NIH, Autism Speaks, CDC, among others, are required to comply with public access mandates for sharing of publications and/or data. Check the information for authors section of the journal website or the Copyright Transfer Agreement form to confirm the journal allows authors to comply with public access mandates.        

Do you need to publish in a peer-reviewed journal?

Publication in peer-reviewed journals is a requirement for tenure and promotion at most academic institutions.  Peer review is defined as an organized procedure carried out by a select committee of professionals in evaluating the performance of other professionals in meeting the standards of their specialty.

Is an expedited review process desired?

Do you have ground-breaking research results to report? A journal with a frequent (weekly or monthly) publication schedule may be best suited for your manuscript. The review process for a journal that publishes on a quarterly basis is most likely longer as opposed to one that publishes monthly. Other journals promote a speedy review process for authors and have special publication types for reporting of ground-breaking or time-sensitive research.

Do you have a specific manuscript type in mind?

Some journals publish specific types of articles and may not be appropriate for your research.

Questionable Indicators

Did you receive an unsolicited email from a journal inviting you to submit a manuscript for peer review or to serve on an editorial board? Or are you reviewing different journals to decide which one to submit for peer review? As follows are some indicators noted in emails and journal websites that may provide clues as to unsuitable journals for publication or review.


  • The content in the email contains misspellings and grammatical errors, with the content phrasing stilted and incomplete.
  • The email contains flash media and colors.
  • There is no recognizable publisher name, nor do you recognize the name of the sender.
  • The email address has a freely available domain name such as gmail or yahoo.
  • Geographic references may be vague such as “the Americas.”
  • The salutation may appear to be archaic.
  • The email solicitation is not from an actual person.
  • The email address does not contain the name of the sender or affiliation.
  • There are promises of swift publication timeframes.
  • There is no link to a journal website.
  • There is no specific journal noted.
  • The sender praises your previous work in the field.
  • The sender wants to be your friend, send a gift, or offers immediate payment.

Journal Website

  • The content in the journal website contains flash media, misspellings and grammatical errors, with the content phrasing stilted and incomplete (one example is phrasing that reads "left search engine and right search engine").
  • There are no editorial board members listed.
  • The editorial board members are all from a single institution or have no affiliation noted.
  • The editorial board members are not established or reputable investigators/authors within your area of research.
  • There are only a few journal articles noted with a journal, and only one or few issues.
  • The publication schedule is unclear.
  • There are multiple journals under a single publisher; all with few articles and irregular publication schedules.
  • There is no actual physical address for the journal publisher, nor is there a phone number.
  • There is no contact information for the editor-in-chief or the editorial board.
  • There is no Copyright Transfer Agreement form available on the journal website, nor is there any information on the indexing status of the journal.
  • The journal claims that citation indexing is done by Google and SHERPA-Romeo. 
  • There is no information regarding publication ethics.
  • There are no DOIs for the articles, nor is there an ISSN for the journal title.
  • The journal title mirrors an established journal in your area of research with one or two words being different.
  • The journal is not published by an established publisher.
  • The articles are not available in PDF.
  • There are promises of swift publication timeframes.

If in doubt, ask a mentor or colleague or a librarian.

Cathy Sarli or Amy Suiter

Resources for Finding a Journal

Publication Strategies

Publishing in Open Access Journals?

Indicators of Journal Quality

Last updated 30 January 2017

Indicators of journal quality can help determine which journal to submit your manuscript for peer review as well as deciding whether to undertake peer review activities.

Does the journal belong to organizations that promote publication ethics?

Is the journal publisher a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)? COPE is a forum for editors and publishers of peer reviewed journals to discuss all aspects of publication ethics and also advises editors on how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct. Another organization is the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM). STM is a global trade association for academic and professional publishers and members are required to abide by STM Ethical Principles for Scholarly Publishing or equivalent statements. A strong indicator of journal quality is if the journal is one of the members of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). A related indicator is if a journal follows the ICJME requirements Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts (URMs). If the journal is an Open Access journal, is it listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? DOAJ contains more than 10000 open access journals covering all areas of science, technology, medicine, social science and humanities. DOAJ is co-author to the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing (Principles) , a list of criteria used for listing of journals and DOAJ members are expected to follow these principles as a condition of membership. Another Open Access directory is the Open Access Scholarly Publisher’s Association (OASPA). Members of OASPA are required to follow membership criteria for ethical publishing practices.

Which citation databases index the journal contents?

One indicator of journal quality is whether it is indexed by any major citation databases and if so, how far back does the indexing date to?  MEDLINE/PubMed is considered among the premier databases for biomedical journals and indexing by MEDLINE/PubMed is considered as a high quality benchmark for a journal. See List of Journals Currently Indexed by PubMed.  Indexing by other databases such as Web of Science, Scopus, and EMBASE, are also quality indicators and may also be appropriate for your desired audience. Consider the citation databases you use to find citations to the literature—if the journal is not indexed by citation databases you use for your research you may want to consider an alternate journal to reach your target audience.

NOTE: Sherpa-Romeo and Google are not considered as citation databases.

Does the journal publisher require authors to follow reporting of research guidelines or to deposit data?
Does the journal follow standard guidelines for reporting of research? Reporting guidelines are a series of guidelines for authors to improve the reliability and value of health research literature. Some major guidelines for reporting of research methods and findings include CONSORT, MOOSE, PRISMA, ARRIVE, GPP2, among others. See Research Reporting Guidelines and Initiatives: By Organization for a list of guidelines. Other types of guidelines include requiring authors to deposit scientific data or sequences into relevant data repositories such as Gene Expression Omnibus or Array Express and to provide accession numbers. Journals that require authors to follow standard guidelines or to deposit data are  clues that the journal is a quality journal. These practices enhance the reproducibility of science.

What is the reputation of the editor-in-chief or editorial board?

The reputation of the editor-in-chief and editorial board members can be useful in determining the quality of a journal. Is the editor-in-chief and members of the editorial board listed along with affiliation and contact information on the journal website? Are the members of the editorial board known experts in the field of research related to the journal focus?

Does the journal provide a description of the review process?

Reputable journals provide a description of how the peer review process is handled including timeframes. Is the review process described on the journal website? How are the reviewers selected?  Are they qualified to serve as reviewers? How many reviewers will be assigned to a manuscript? How are revisions handled?  How soon will an author receive notice that their manuscript has been accepted for publication? What is the average length of time for submission to rejection?  If accepted, what is the expected time period for acceptance to publication?

Does the journal post copyright information for authors?

A quality journal will include a sample Copyright Transfer Agreement form on the journal website and include supplemental information to help authors understand the rights retained by the author and publisher. Many publishers grant authors certain rights up front and there is a wide range of what rights are allowed including stipulations for use. Some publishers allow for unrestricted dissemination of the work to colleagues, unlimited copies for personal use, posting of the final published version on an web site or subject repository, use a graph or chart for a future work, to comply with public access mandates, to name a few. However, these rights may come with stipulations for use which vary among publishers. Some publishers will allow authors to use only the final, peer-review manuscript version  and not the publisher’s final version, an embargo period before an author can reuse the work, a limit on the number of times a work can be sent to colleagues, a limit on the number of copies that can be made for educational purposes, to name a few.

Does the journal allow authors to comply with public access mandates for publications and/or data?

Authors whose articles were generated as a result of research funded by organizations such as NIH, Autism Speaks, CDC, among others, are required to comply with public access mandates for sharing of publications and/or data. Check the information for authors section of the journal website or the Copyright Transfer Agreement form to confirm the journal allows authors to comply with public access mandates. An indicator of a quality journal is a journal that allows authors to comply with public access mandates without a fee.

What manuscripts types are accepted by the journal and are there any word or figure/table limits?

Some journals only accept certain types of manuscripts for review and some journals have a word count limit. For instance, some journals have special manuscript types for reporting of time-sensitive new research findings; while other journals may be geared towards longer manuscripts such as systematic reviews. Do you have multiple figures or tables to include? If so, some journals have a limit on the number of figures or tables that can be submitted with a manuscript.

Does the journal require review or publication fees?

Are publication fees noted upfront before a manuscript is submitted for peer review? Is the fee schedule available for authors? Some journals impose fees for reviewing an article, article processing fees, page fees or fees for use of color images or other special media formats. It is not uncommon to have a considerable range in article processing fees among journals with similar scope and focus. Some journals also offer discounts on article processing fees to authors who use certain bibliographic software for management of references.
Are there instructions for authors and other helpful tips?

Journals that provide extensive guidance and templates to help authors with preparing manuscripts for peer review are examples of quality journals. Examples of guidance from journals include templates for specific manuscript types, review of good/bad examples of preparing tables and figures, recommended abbreviations, formatting examples, recommended keyword lists, funding acknowledgement examples, among others. Some journals also offer feedback about a topic for manuscript and whether it is a good fit for submission for peer review to the journal.

What is the publication history of the journal?

Factors such as the circulation count (number of subscribers), the number of years in publication, the language/s of the journal, frequency of publication, the number of articles published per year, and availability of electronic or print formats can be helpful in determining a journal for publication. Generally speaking, an established publication history is considered a quality indicator

Does the journal follow good publishing and/or archiving guidelines?

Does the journal follow NISO guidelines by assigning an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) to the journal title and a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) to the journal contents? An ISSN is an eight digit code used to assign unique identifier numbers to magazines and journals, print and electronic. The DOI is an interoperable, persistent and unique link assigned to digital objects (individual journal contents). While the ISSN and DOI do not infer journal quality, use of these identifiers is indicative that the publisher is following guidelines that promote best practices in journal publishing. An example of a good business practice followed by quality journals is their long-term plan for preservation and archiving of articles and supplemental data. Does the journal participate in LOCKSS, CLOCKSS, Portico or PubMed Central?  These organizations archive journal content to ensure perpetual access. Some journals accept supplemental data associated with an article and allow for access to the data on the journal website. Other journals go as far to make a commitment to archive the data and to provide long term access to data sets on behalf of authors.

Does the journal allow for free access to their articles?

A factor that might be important for your area of research is whether the journal allows free access articles after an embargo period and/or to developing countries. Does the journal provide unrestricted access to all articles immediately or within a set time frame? Some journals allow for free access to institutions in developing countries via HINARI and AGORA.  Does the journal routinely submit articles to PubMed Central for archiving?  These considerations may be important for your scholarly work if you publish on topics related to underserved populations.

Is there information about the journal on the website?

Factors such as the circulation count, the number of years in publication, the language/s of the journal, frequency of publication, the number of articles published per year, and availability of electronic or print formats can be helpful in determining a journal for publication. Also to consider is the contact information for the journal. Is there a physical address listed for the journal or publisher? Is there a direct email or phone number for the editor-in-chief? Is there any editorial staff to help answer questions or to assist authors through the publication process?

Does the journal post a statement outlining their ethical practices?

Does the journal have a publication ethics statement regarding publication practices posted on the website? Does the journal post procedures for handling of author and publication misconduct on the journal website? Topics related to publication ethics include duplicate publication, conflict of interest, plagiarism, confidentiality, etc.