Choosing the wrong journal is one of the most common reasons why a manuscript is rejected. With over 28,000 scholarly peer-reviewed journals, it’s no surprise that finding the right match can be difficult. At times, some of you might be wondering, “if the publication process is so tedious and frustrating, why publish at all?”
Of course, we all know the answer to that question. According to a recent peer review survey by the Publishing Research Consortium, about 82% of researchers support peer review. Moreover, these surveyed authors and reviewers believe that without peer review, “there would be no control in scholarly communication.”
However, peer review has come under scrutiny and many people question the effectiveness, fairness and efficiency of the peer-review system. Consequently, we have seen the rise of open-access journals and the adoption of open or hybrid review methods. Additionally, many people criticize peer review because of its long duration. In response, some traditional high-impact journals have tried to satisfy this demand by making quicker decisions, which results in increased rejection rates. More specifically, editors exercise tremendous discretion, indicating scope (specialist interest) as a primary reason for rejection. Even if your publication is solid on its technical merits, failure to have the right “scope” might mean your research will fall on deaf ears.
Thus, if you want your voice to be heard within the scientific community, then you must carefully decide who your target audience is and how to properly frame your work’s scope.
Using the three factors mentioned in our prior post, this article hopes to explore some of the factors you should consider in selecting the right journal for your research.
Technical aspects: research journals
- Journals outline their goals and scope in several places. The two main ones are their website (usually in the “about us” section) and in their submissions criteria (e.g., guide for authors), which include the specific parameters editors will accept.
TIP: Read both the journal self-introduction and its Guide for Authors carefully. Not only will these indicate what types of articles it will and won’t accept, but sometimes, it also will specifically state what types of research it won’t accept.
- While conducting research, read avidly. Even if you know a journal’s specific requirements, reading its papers extensively will help you better understand the types of research and articles its editors like.
TIP: By surveying papers from the past few years, you can see how its editors’ define criteria terms such as “novel,” “interesting” and “sufficient conceptual advancement.”
- Similarly, think about which journals are publishing research similar to yours. If your investigation belongs to a particular niche, then selecting a specialized publication would increase your odds of being accepted. Additionally, you would maximize target audience reach.
TIP: If your article is published in the right specialist journal, a higher percentage of subscribers would likely read your paper or find it relevant to their own studies.
- Which brings us to a journal’s Impact Factor (IF). Although there are strong arguments regarding its use to determine quality, IF is still the preferred method of gauging a journal’s prestige. Nevertheless, you should consider the time and effort it would take to try and submit to the highest-ranking journals and decide whether it is feasible or worth it.
Methodology: examine submissions process
- One factor to consider when you select a journal is its submission process. In particular, what is the journal’s peer-review process? Is it closed? Open? How are the different publication criteria weighted? Do reviewers separate technical review from broader questions about research significance? Would you be happy having your work reviewed in this manner?
- How long is the submission process? Some journals have sped up the review process, while others could take months. Does the timeline match your goals? Do you think that the journal’s average review time will be sufficient for the nature of your work?
TIP: Consider the efficiency of each journal’s submission process and decide which journal best accommodates your goals for publication.
- What is the journal’s publication method? In other words, do you want your article to be open access or available only through traditional subscription services?
- If you are having difficulty creating a shortlist of potential journals, then you can use various online journal finder tools to narrow your choices. Tools like Elsevier Journal Finder, Journal/Author Name Estimator (JANE) and Springer Journal Suggester allow you to search databases using keywords, your manuscript title and abstract to find suitable matches for your research.
Issue Framing: draft from the right perspective
While it’s obvious that certain aspects of your research might never fit within a journal’s scope, before you give up on a journal choice, stop and ask yourself this question:
Can I use my research to support a topic that would further the journal’s objectives?
In other words, how can I package my research in a way that would be interesting and useful for the journal’s readers? This is what we call “framing” the right question. Journals care about their readers reactions to published content. Will their readers find your work engaging? Will they learn something new that can help them with their own work? These are the questions you should be answering in your article. Although your research might seem very specific, always think of the bigger picture and use your manuscript to show others why you spend hours slaving away pursuing the work you do!
TIP: When you describe your research, can your results support a conclusion with a greater global impact?