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.

OBE logo

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!

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.

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

You devoted an enormous amount of effort, time, and money to your research and are ready to write a compelling paper to spread the word about your findings, enable your colleagues to share in your enthusiasm, confirm your results, and collaborate, not to mention to increase your chances of obtaining new grant funds. Unfortunately, rejection rates are high and writing can feel overwhelming. This essay offers a step-by-step tutorial designed to make it easier for you to create a biomedical or science manuscript that a journal editor will be happy to accept.

Because the journal you chose to publish in will ultimately determine your audience, how your work will be presented, and the time it takes for your findings to reach publication, it is imperative that you make a wise choice. Choosing the right journal will result in rapid dissemination of your important findings with appropriate exposure, whereas choosing the wrong journal may result in rejection or delay to publication. Therefore, wise target journal selection will save you considerable time and effort and is the first step in writing your compelling science article. In this first part of “How to Write a Compelling Science Paper,” we will cover the first 4 out of 10 steps for choosing an effective target journal.

Essential Steps for Selecting an Effective Target Journal: Steps 1–4

The first step is to avoid having your manuscript rejected for technical or administrative reasons before your work is even seen by reviewers. So, we begin by choosing an appropriate target journal.

Why Journal Editors Immediately Reject a Manuscript

Overwhelmed Editor
Overwhelmed Editor

Dozens of manuscripts are heaped upon a journal editor every day, forcing the editor to make rapid decisions. Keeping the journal’s acceptance rate in mind, the editor skims the papers looking for three factors to decide whether to immediately reject or send a manuscript out for peer review: scientific, stylistic, and administrative factors. Scientific considerations are beyond the scope of this essay, but include the importance of the findings, the originality of the ideas, the sophistication of the research methods, the appropriateness of the data analyses, and the implications of the results. Stylistic factors include the quality of the writing and the data presentation. A poorly written or organized manuscript may be viewed as a limitation by the editors or reviewers, and editors may not have the time to work with authors to bring the article in line with the journal’s standards. Administrative factors include the length of the article, the amount of revision required, and the appropriateness of the topic to the journal’s mission. This final point is where authors appear to run afoul of journal editors. In my experience, the number one reason journal editors reject a manuscript before it goes to peer review is that the work is not considered a good fit with the journal’s scope or readers.

Finding a Journal That is a Good Fit with Your Manuscript

Journal Selection
Journal Selection

So how do you find a journal that is a good fit with your work? Because you are already familiar with published studies that are similar to yours, make a list of the journals that published those studies. If you cited several articles from one particular journal, move that journal toward the top of your list as that indicates this journal may be a good fit for your work. Conducting literature searches for recently published articles in your field that are similar in scope and impact on the field is also a good idea.

The first two important choices to keep in mind as you are evaluating the potential target journals on your list is whether the journals are aimed at an international or national audience and what language the articles are published in. If your work is best suited to an international audience, it may be wise to choose an English-language journal that can be read by scholars in most countries because English is the main language of scientific communication throughout the world. Thus, your work written in English may receive greater exposure. If you are concerned about your ability to communicate well in English, consider having an experienced professional native English-speaking editor who specializes in science editing polish your work before submission (for instance, OnboardEditing). A third important consideration for determining your target journal is to decide whether reaching the largest possible audience or a focused audience is most desired, keeping in mind that this choice will affect the number of readers who see your work (discussed in more detail under Step 6: Exposure). If your work is written in English, it may be included in major abstracting and indexing services (also discussed in more detail in Step 6: Exposure), most of which operate in the English language.

Summary of Steps 1–4:

  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 above first 3 steps.