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

Essential Steps for Selecting an Effective Target Journal: Steps 8–10

The first two parts of this essay explored the first seven 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 final steps in your quest for the perfect target journal.

STEPS 8–9: Consider Your Publishing Goals

Publishing Goals
Publishing Goals

Journals with a wide audience and high impact factor are not necessarily the right target journal for every study. If your research is published in a smaller journal with a specific topic focus or a lower impact journal that is widely read in your field, it may reach more of your target audience.

Consider which of the two following publishing goals is most important to you: rapid publication or highest impact factor.

Rapid publication: In a hurry to publish? Chose a journal with…

  • a faster time to complete peer-review. These statistics are often advertised by journals vying for your work.

  • a cascading peer review process. This means that if your paper is rejected by one journal, the editor will automatically send it to another appropriate journal. Nature Publishing Group, PLoS, and BioMed Central provide this service, but many journals do not.

  • a more rapid speed of publication. Compare submitted, accepted, and published dates for articles recently published in the journal to get an idea of how long they take.

  •  pre-submission inquires. If the journal allows this, send a cover letter and your abstract to the editor, who will let you know whether the journal may be interested in reviewing your manuscript.

  • online pre-publication. Some journals publish online versions of accepted papers prior to the print publication.

Best impact factor: Most journals list their impact factors on their websites. Although a journal’s impact factor is one measure of its reputation, it is not always the most important. Three other measures worth considering are the prestige of the authors who publish in the journal, the size of the journal’s readership, and the journal’s audience. Your paper may be read by more of your colleagues if you publish in a journal that is widely read in your field, even if the impact factor for that journal isn’t the highest. Said another way, if you chose a journal because it has a high impact factor but very few of your colleagues read it, your work may not receive its due attention.

STEP 10: Practical Matters

Practical Considerations
Practical Considerations

Once you find the journal(s) that fulfill your publication criteria, continue reading the author guidelines (instructions) for each journal, searching for any practices that may change your opinion about publishing in that particular journal. You will want to pay careful attention to sections on policies, word limitations, publication and submission fees, requirements for publication, formatting of tables and figures, and their submission process. If you read something incompatible with your manuscript, work, or desires, then consider choosing one of your other candidate target journals. For example, if you plan to write a lengthy manuscript and you think you will have a tough time meeting the journal’s limits for number of words in the Abstract, Introduction, or overall, then consider one of your other target journals.

Beall's List
Beall’s List

And finally, but importantly, if you are considering a publisher you are not familiar with, visit BEALL’S LIST OF PREDATORY JOURNALS to be sure that publisher is not on his list! The publishers on his list have met Jeffrey Beall’s criteria for corruption and “exist only to make money off the author processing charges that are billed to authors upon acceptance of their scientific manuscripts.” If you are unfamiliar with predatory journals, click here for an excellent article from Allen Press, Inc. that will open your eyes about this their practices, and click here for a colorful chart from Allen Press, Inc. to enhance your awareness of or teach you to spot “phony versus legit” publishers. (Hat-tip to Katherine O’Moore-Klopf for posting these links on the EFA discussion list).

Summary: 10 Steps for Selecting an Effective Target Journal:

  1. Determine whether your work will interest a national or international audience.

  2. Establish the best language for presenting your work.

  3. Decide whether reaching the largest possible audience or a focused target audience is best.

  4. Choose 3–5 general science or specialty journals based on the first 3 steps.

  5. 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.

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

  7. Evaluate your chances of acceptance.

  8. Consider the time the journal takes to review and to publish your paper.

  9. Weigh the importance of the target journals’ impact factors.

  10. Take into account practical matters that may influence your decision.

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Do you have some words of wisdom, pertinent experiences, or cautions to share with authors who may be struggling to find the right journal to submit their work to? Please feel free to share with us!

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