Submitting your manuscript to the wrong journal is one of the most common reasons why editors might reject your paper. With over 28,000 scholarly peer-reviewed journals, it’s no surprise that finding the right match for your research paper can be difficult. Admittedly, the process can be so frustrating that you might even want to give up.
Don’t lose hope, however! The submissions process doesn’t have to be a game of hit or miss. Rather, you can take control of your situation and improve the chances of having your manuscript accepted if you understand how journals operate and know their readership. In other words, you have to be smart about how you navigate the publications game. Let us explain.
What’s the secret to successfully publishing your paper?
Let’s face it, not every research project yields truly paradigm-shifting discoveries. Nonetheless, even obscure research topics can find their way to the hallowed pages of a high-impact journal. So, what’s the secret to convincing editors to review your paper further? The answer is a three-word phrase that all writers should know, no matter the field.
While journals aim to support the research community by facilitating idea exchange, always remember that publications are businesses. Editors must make sound business judgments about the content they curate for each issue of their journal. Competition is tough in the research publication industry, and journals are constantly pressured to outshine their peers and grow their readership. But the only way to accomplish those goals is to provide reading material readers would find useful and engaging. Consequently, even if your research is solid on its technical merits, failure to match the interests of a journal’s readership would likely mean that your research would fall on deaf ears. Thus,
if you want to save time, effort, and heartache, you should think carefully about how your work would benefit a journal and its readers.
Factors to Consider During the Journal Selection Process
Below, we use the three factors mentioned in our prior post to explain what you should consider when selecting the right journal for your research article.
Technical aspects: know your target 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 each journal’s submission 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 your manuscript 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 you package your research in a way that would be interesting and useful for the journal’s readers? Structure your research paper to answer questions that would genuinely interest the journal’s audience. As you are well aware, 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 you present your results in a way that supports a conclusion with a greater global impact?
You can also find these resources plus information about the journal submission process in our FREE downloadable e-book: Research Writing and Journal Publication E-Book.