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Manuscript Preparation Resources: Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Journal

Questions to Ask

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 do you cite for your research? 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 Instructions 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.

What is the quality of the peer review process? Does the journal provide clear and transparent information about the peer review process? 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?

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.

What is the aim and scope of the journal? Is the journal appropriate for your research?

What is the reputation of the journal? Is the journal published by a known publisher or professional organization?

Does the journal provide information on research integrity and ethics for authors? Policies related to plagiarism, patient data, informed consent, duplicate publications, image integrity are noted by most journal publishers.

Does the journal require reporting guidelines for reporting of research? Guidelines such as CONSORT, STROBE or PRISMA are examples of reporting guidelines. The purpose of standardized reporting guidelines is to ensure that readers can understand what was done, how and why.

Does the journal follow best practices promoted by professional scholarly publishing organizations? Does the journal follow recommendations from professional scholarly publishing organizations such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)?