Choosing a Journal or Publisher
When writing a manuscript for publication, you should already have in mind a journal or publisher you would like to target for publication. The submission requirements and any style guide may inform the format and structure of your manuscript. The information below may help you in identifying what questions to ask of yourself when identifying where to publish, in addition to advice form colleagues.
Criteria for selecting journals
If you are a new researcher, or are researching in a new or unfamiliar area, then the guidance below may be helpful in choosing where to publish.
Information on Journal Rankings (such as included in the Journal Citation Reports (JCRs) or the Chartered Association of Business Schools (ABS) Journal Guide can be found in the section on Journal Rankings.
Se also the guidance provided by Think, Check, Submit!
When identifying prospective journals
- Where do your colleagues and peers publish most frequently?
- Which journals have you found the most relevant articles related to your subject area?
- If you find a lot of research on your topic in just one or two journals, this may be the best place to publish to reach a key audience, irrespective of journal rankings etc. Journal metrics will usually be based on citation and publication data from the previous 2+ years, and may not yet reflect new trends or hot topics and where they are published.
- Your Academic Liaison Librarian may also be able to offer some advice on key, new or emerging journals in a particular field of study you may not be familiar with.
- You can also use some online publisher tools to suggest journals based on a title or abstract (be aware, these may be limited to suggesting journals published by that publisher, which may not be the most appropriate journal for your research!):
- Springer-Nature Journal Suggester (also gives an indication of average acceptance rates and times between submission and acceptance)
- Elsevier Journal Finder
- Do you use Endnote? The Clarivate Manuscript Matcher is accessible via both desktop and web versions of Endnote.
- JANE (For medicine, health, biosciences and related journals).
- You could also use tools such as Scopus or Web of Science to identify published articles matching a keyword search, and then analyse these results to view in which journals most articles appear, or which articles (in which journals) received the most citations.
When shortlisting prospective journals
- Do those journals identified have a clear "aims and scope" section on their website, and does your research fit that journal? Examples here, here and here.
- Does the format of the journal match your needs?
- What type of articles do they invite for submission?
- Some journals might specialise in publishing technical reports.
- Some journals will only commission certain types of article (e.g. a Review article, or a Book Review), whilst others will consider unsolicited submissions of this type for publication.
- What types of research do they publish?
- Are they peer-reviewed?
- Fully blind peer-review, or can you select or suggest potential reviewers?
- Is the peer-review offered robust and a clear timeframe for receipt of reviewer comments offered?
- What type of articles do they invite for submission?
- How easily are articles in the journal discovered by potential readers?
- Is the journal discoverable via Google Scholar (e.g. not just "citation only" results, or via repository services)
- Is the journal indexed in any academic databases (e.g. Web of Science, Scopus, discipline specific databases such as Business Source, ASSIA, Historical Abstracts, PsycInfo)
- Examples of where journals might provide this information can be found here, here and here (included in the "why publish with JBC").
- Is the journal open access, or does it allow you to make your article open access?
- If yes, are there any costs applicable to make your article open access?
- What rights does it grant you as author of the journal to make a manuscript open access via a repository or free to download from your own personal web page?
- Not sure? Contact the Library or find out further information about open access requirements, options and costs.
- If the journal is not open access, can you tell who subscribes to the journal? Usually this is best achieved through checking other university library pages - for example, here, here and here - or a service such as the UK's Library Hub Discover.
- This might give an idea as to how many academic and student readers your article might potentially reach.
When you have identified a potential journal
- Do you or your colleagues know the journal?
- Do your colleagues have any feedback on their previous experience with the journal?
- Editorial Support
- Submission system and processes
- Peer Review - speed and appropriateness/usefulness of comments/reviewers
- Marketing and promotional support post publication
- Do you or your colleagues know the publisher, or does the publisher belong to any recognised trade association or accreditation initiative?
- Are the publisher or editorial team easy to identify and contact?
- What editorial services are offered?
- If required, do they offer academic writing or language support?
- What publication fees will you be liable to pay?
- Can you tell how long it takes an article to be published from the point of submission?
- If the journal doesn't indicate this, do the articles within the journal give any indication through submission/acceptance/publication dates recorded?
All academic authors, at all stages of their career, should be aware that there are a large volume of fraudulent or predatory publishers who will regularly approach authors to encourage them to publish their research (for example you thesis) with them, often for a fee. Although many publishers are legitimate and well respected, and may charge either for open access publication, or levy page or colour figure charges as part of their business model, not all such approaches are honest or genuine.
Fraudulent or predatory publishers may not provide the same level of editorial or publishing expertise that you might expect, and there is no guarantee that your work will remain available to readers in the future. Some predatory publishers offer a range of titles, with often professional looking websites and using names similar to existing, well established and respected journals.
If you are contacted by a journal, you should always exercise some due diligence before agreeing to publish with them:
- Have you heard of the journal before?
- Have you or colleagues published with them previously?
- Have you or colleagues consulted research published in the journal before?
- Check the title - it may be similar to a well known journal.
- Is the journal indexed in a database you already use, such as Scopus, Web of Science, Business Source Complete, ASSIA, ERIC, PsycINFO or Historical Abstracts?
- Not Google Scholar - many predatory or vanity publications are indexed by Google Scholar, which does not have the same selection and indexing policies an academic database might.
- Has the journal approached you before?
- Does the approach seem persistence, aggressive?
- Do repeated approaches offer significant 'discounts'?
- Have other colleagues experienced similar persistant marketing?
- Do they offer to publish your article quickly?
- Whilst shorter publication times may be attractive, it could be indicative of the quality of editorial or peer-review processes in place (or lack of).
- Who is on the editorial board?
- Are they real people?
- Are they contactable, and based at reputable organisations?
- Do they have a publication profile, or a profile page at their organisation?
- Does it list their position on the journal there?
- If they are identifiable, do they know they are listed as being on the editorial board? Do they list this indicator of esteem on their own personal or professional profile anywhere?
- Are costs clearly explained?
- Is any peer-review process clearly explained?
- See our page on peer review for more information about peer review processes and examples of peer review reports.
- What is the quality of existing articles already published in the journal?
- If the journal indicates it has an Impact Factor or Citescore, is this true? Can you verify this in the Journal Citation Reports or Journal Metrics?
- See our pages on metrics for more information about these Journal Metrics.
Funders: Requirements for publications
If your publication is reporting research conducted under a funding agreement, it is essential that you are aware of the requirements of the funder and what policies they have with respect of the resulting outputs of that research.
- For commercial partners in particular, are you required through any contractual agreement to allow them to review any planned publications prior to submission, for reasons of commercial sensitivity?
- Are you required to publish one or all outputs reporting the research in a specific journal or venue?
- Are you required to make your research open access, or specifically to publish your research in an open access journal?
- Are you required to publish your research output under a specific re-use licence?
- Are you required to deposit your research in an open access repository? If so, is this in a specific repository (e.g. Europe PubMed) within a designated timeframe?
These requirements may apply to awards for a specific research project, salary support provided by a funding body (eg the Wellcome Trust) or a doctoral training award (eg RCUK). It is essential you are aware what publishing commitments you have agreed to as part of a funding agreement you have signed or are party to before deciding what and where to publish.
Some funders already impose penalties for failing to comply with their publication policies, such as withholding payment of an award or consequences for future grant applications. For further information see our open access web pages covering funder policies.
The Sherpa JULIET service allows you to check if your funding body has any open access requirements in place which you may have agreed to comply with as part of your contract in accepting research funding.
Note that not all funders are listed in this service, so if you are unable to identify your funder, you may need to check the funder's policy pages directly, or check your funding contract.
Are you hoping your publication may be submitted to the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise? If so, there are two key things you should consider:
- Does your department have any specific guidance or support on where to publish (eg particular publishers or journals)?
- If a journal article or conference paper, does your journal of preference meet the REF Open Access policy requirements?
See also our pages on publication planning for considerations.
Journal Rankings and citation mapping
Are any journal level metrics considered important in your field of study? Does your department indicate any expectations as to particular "high impact" or "high prestige" journals? Is publication in any particular journal considered important for your career progression? It is also worth considering if your research (or similar research) is attracting interest outside of you traditional field of study?
Journal Rankings: JIF, Eigenfactor, Citescore, SJR and ABS Star Rankings.
There are several ranking systems for journals, including:
- Journal Citation Reports (which use metrics including the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) and Eigenfactor)
- Journal Metrics (which use metrics including the Citescore and the Scimago Journal Rank (SJR))
- Chartered Association of Business Schools Academic Journal Guide (which includes various rankings, including the "Star Ratings" which look at both citation metrics and panel peer-review).
If you are not sure what the metrics used in the above ranking systems mean, how they are calculated or how they are or should be used, see our pages on journal level metrics and responsible uses of metrics.
- Further information about journal level metrics.
- Further information about the responsible use of metrics.
It is also worth considering if your research (or similar research) is attracting interest outside of you traditional field of study. One way of doing this is by identifying who is citing similar work and where these citing articles are being published. There are various tools available which might be of interest may also be of interest in seeing "citation flows" - where citations between specific subject areas are developing.
- The Eigenfactor mapping tool (which uses historic data underpinning Journal Impact Factors),
- Visualisation tools provided in the JCRs online (also using data underpinning the Journal Impact Factor)
- SCImago Journal and Country Rank Shape of Science tools (which uses data from the Scopus citation database)
Open Access Publication: Requirements and Benefits
As a leading research institution, Durham recognises the value of its world class research and is committed to sharing its knowledge and expertise as widely as possible in order to enhance its use and impact.
As a researcher and an author, you may wish to consider which options are offered by journals or publishers you would like to publish with, and if:
- these will allow you to meet any Funder, REF or institutional requirements, or
- how reducing barriers to access (e.g. subscription access or pay-to-view) might benefit your aims in sharing your research.
See our open access web pages for more information.
"There is no point spending a year of your life writing a book if it is not going to reach the people you want to read it."
Thomson, P (2011) [Blog Post] 'Picking the right publisher for your book' [last accessed August 2019]
The type of book or monograph publication will affect how you decide with whom to publish, and the process of publishing itself. The below is just an outline guide on some points to consider and some further guidance available.
Identify potential publishers
Your first step is to create a short list of publishers to whom you could submit a proposal for publication. There are various ways you could do this.
- Speak to colleagues with research interests in the same field.
- Check the library collections for items published in your chosen topic.
- Check online sources such as Amazon, Google Books, LibraryThing, JISC Library Hub or WorldCat.
- Check which publishers are exhibiting at conferences and events in your field of study.
- Check reference lists and bibliographies in books already published on your topic.
- Ask the advice of you department's Academic Liaison Librarian.
It is also worth seeing which publishers appear most eager to solicit new material. Have a look at publisher's websites, or speak to publishers exhibiting at conferences. Identify which publishers make it easy for authors to get in touch and are clear of the format they require for a submission (of course, it is also perfectly valid to question why a publisher seems so keen to publish your new material).
Narrow down your preferred shortlist
The points below are some questions to consider in narrowing down your shortlist. Not all will be relevant in all situations.
- Funder requirements: Does you funder have any specific requirements? For example, the Wellcome Trust requires monographs and book chapters are made open access. If you are in receipt of funding for your research, this should be the first thing to check as you have likely signed a contract which stipulated the terms under which the funding for your research was provided.
- Academic weight: Does the publisher offer a peer review process? Is this essential for your purposes (eg for future career progression, for future research evaluation exercises such as the REF). If it is essential, cross off any publishers which do not meet these expectations.
- Size of publisher: Do you want a smooth, if less personal service that a larger publisher might be able to offer over a smaller, but more personal operation? Can your colleagues or peers offer advice on their own experiences with individual publishers?
- Prestige of publisher: Likewise, are you looking for a prestigious publisher where competition may be greater, or a younger press that may focus on offering a good personal service and where acceptance for publication may be less competitive.
- Speed of publication: Depending upon your own personal requirements, or that of your funder or employer, the speed of publication offered by the publisher may be major factor in your decision.
- Subject specialist press: Are you aiming your research at a small, select expert audience, or at a wider cross-discipline audience? Would a publisher which specialises in your field of study offer an advantage or improved service (especially when considering proof-reading, peer-review and indexing services which may or may not be offered).
- Added value: Design and layout, copy-editing and proof-reading, good review coverage, promotion, indexing part of the service?
- Pricing policy: How does the price they plan to sell book at compare to similar publications and the price sensitivity of the target market?
- Distribution agreements: Smaller presses can still offer an efficient service if they have a good relationship with a local distributor. Can the publisher demonstrate its effectiveness in getting its publications into the academic or commercial market you require?
- Location: Especially for smaller publishers, check their country of legal domicile to ensure the copyright legislation in place offers no reason for concern.