How to Write a Compelling Science Paper: Selecting an Effective Target Journal (Part II)

Essential Steps for Selecting an Effective Target Journal: Steps 5–7

The first part of this essay explored the first four steps for choosing an effective target journal, arming you with a list of 3–5 journals that may be a good fit with your work. Here we examine the next three steps in your quest for the perfect target journal.

STEP 5: Visit each Potential Journal’s website

Journal's Scope

Journal’s Scope

Visit the websites for each of your 3-5 target journals. Every journal has (or should have!) a page that provides instructions to authors. Go there and read the section that describes the types of papers the journal accepts, often called Aims or Scope, or read the journal’s mission statement, which often describes the journal’s focus, goals, preferences, and audience. Many journals have very specific areas of focus, and you will want to make sure that this focus encompasses the main points of your manuscript. If you think researchers in other fields will be interested in your study, a journal that covers a broad range of topics may be best. However, if only researchers in your field are likely to want to read your study, then a field-specific journal would be best.

It is also a good idea to skim the table of contents of recent issues to ensure that your potential target journals have published manuscripts with your particular focus but that are not too closely related to your findings. If a published paper sounds too much like yours, the editor may be less enthusiastic about publishing such similar results. Since it cannot hurt to have a journal editor enthralled with your work, consider choosing another journal.

STEP 6: Gauge the Potential Exposure of Your Article

Enhancing Your Exposure

Enhancing Your Exposure

As you read through your potential target journals’ websites, establish their ability to provide exposure to your target audience. Exposure is determined by a journal’s circulation (print and electronic) and its dissemination capabilities, as determined by access to abstracting and indexing services. The exposure of your work is determined to a far greater extent than ever before by the electronic databases that index the published literature by author, topic, and bibliographic reference, and that provide abstracts of articles for potential readers in search of particular types of information. These electronic databases dramatically increase an article’s potential exposure by permitting searches of the current and past literature according to author, title, and keywords, and often by providing the author’s abstract for review. A journal’s ability to provide a listing of its articles and abstracts to these electronic databases greatly increases an article’s exposure to scholars and students throughout the world. The greater the number of indexing and abstracting services a journal belongs to, the more likely it is that an article will reach its intended audience.

If your main goal is to reach as many readers as possible, then also strongly consider candidate journals that provide an open access option. Open access allows anyone to read your article, free of charge, online, which can make your article more likely to be read and cited.

STEP 7: Evaluate Your Chances of Acceptance

Honest Evaluation

Honest Evaluation

A major consideration in the choice of a journal is the likelihood of acceptance of your article. While reading through your target journals’ websites, determine the percentage of submitted articles they accept to help gauge the likelihood for the acceptance of your article.  Some journals have high acceptance rates and are searching for articles to publish, whereas for other journals, the number of submissions is excessive and many articles worthy of publication in less competitive journals must be rejected.

Summary of Steps 5–7:

  1. Visit each potential journal’s website to read their mission statements, aims, and scopes, and skim the table of contents from recent issues to determine whether your work fits with the journal’s content and culture.

  2. Gauge the potential exposure of your work by reviewing the journal’s circulation, abstracting services, and open access.

  3. Evaluate your chances of acceptance.


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