Journals come in many varieties, so before you start writing an article, select one or a few journals which you think would be a suitable fit for your work. Often journal manuscripts are rejected because they are not of interest to the journal's readers or require major revisions because they are not written with the target audience in mind. In ensuring that you target the right journal and enhance your chances of publication, a good place to start is by asking your supervisor about which journals they think would be appropriate for you. You can also take note of which journals your own research often draws on – do you keep finding relevant literature within a few particular journals? If so, investigate more about what these journals look for. Also, speak with other peers in your area – what journals have they published in? Did they start by aiming for top ranked, well recognised journals? Or have they worked their way upwards? Depending on your field and the nature of your research, you might want to test out a few different strategies.
To scope out a journal, take a look at the information for authors on their websites and consider the following questions.
- What quality of research do they publish? Is your research of the same quality?
- What is the journal’s reputation? Is it well regarded? Reflect on the likelihood of your work getting into the journal, and discuss this with your supervisor, colleagues and peers.
- Are they double blind, peer reviewed? This can be a good sign of a high quality journal.
- Do they give any indication of the time that it takes review and publish an article? If you’re doing a thesis by publication, this may affect your choice and planning.
- Do they require authors to pay to publish? This can be a sign of a predatory publisher, which you should avoid (more on predatory publishers below).
- Who is the intended audience? This will affect how you write up your paper.
- Is it a broad / generalist journal, or a highly specialist / theoretical journal?
- Does the journal publish multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research? Is this suitable for your research?
- What are the word or page limits?
- Do they publish appendices?
What you find in answer to these questions will help you to decide which journals to approach and which ones to avoid.
Scoping out the journal also helps you to figure out how to write your article. Once you have selected some potential journals, read a handful of those journals’ articles to get a sense of the editors’ and reviewers’ expectations. Look at how the articles are structured, how much of a literature review they provide, what types of arguments they present, and the tone of the writing. Also consider their audiences carefully. For example, if the journal’s articles are written for a broad audience, including scholars who don’t necessarily specialise in your area, this will influence how much explanation you will need to give about your discipline specific concepts and terms.
Avoid predatory publishers
One of the key things to be aware of is predatory publishing. These are publishers who might charge authors money (up to thousands of dollars) to publish their work. These publishers don’t care about the quality of the work; their aim is primarily to make money. You may receive emails from predatory publishers inviting you to publish your work with them. It’s best to do your research about such publishers – Google them to see if they are predatory publishers, check out Beall’s lists of suspect publishers and journals, and if you’re unsure, ask your supervisor and colleagues about them. Also check out the Thesis Whisperer’s blog post on the quality of publications.
References and further resources
- Belcher, W. L. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A Guide to academic publishing success. Los Angeles: Sage.
- Clark, T. & Wright, M. (2007). Reviewing journal rankings and revisiting peer reviews: Editorial perspectives. Journal of Management Studies, 44(4), 612-621.
- Gump, S. E. (2004). Writing successful covering letters for unsolicited submissions to academic journals. Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 35(2), 92-102.
- Knight, L. V. & Steinbach, T. A. (2008). Selecting an Appropriate publication outlet: a comprehensive model of journal selection criteria for researchers in a broad range of academic disciplines. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 3, 59-78.
- Murray, R. (2009). Writing for academic journals (2nd ed). Berkshire: Open University Press (McGraw Hill).