What to consider when choosing a journal

A useful starting point to choosing a journal can be to identify a short list of the journals that may be suitable. There are a variety of sources of information to help you with making your short list.

Think about the journals you know and read
Consider the journals that you are familiar with, those that publish articles you have read.  These are probably are great starting point

If you use reference management software such as RefWorks or EndNote and you have a database of the articles of interest to you, this may help you to easily identify the journals that published the articles.

Ask your colleagues
Asking your colleagues for their recommendations is another good place to start. Your research group, supervisor or research team will probably have suggestions or recommendations for relevant journals and may have had experience of submitting to them. You may also be able to find out if your Department or Research Centre has a list of preferred or recommended journals.

Look at lists of journals in your subject area or discipline
There are lists of journals by subject that may help you find journals for your short list.

♦   The database Scopus contains lists of journals by subject. Click on the ‘Sources’ link at the top of the Scopus home page and then search for a relevant subject area to see a list of journals publishing articles on that subject. This video shows you how to use this feature in Scopus:

♦   The database journal citation reports provides lists of journals in broad subject categories (it covers the journals indexed in Web of Science)

♦   Some of the other  library databases include a list of the journals they cover which can then be sorted by subject. For example in the Proquest databases there is a ‘Publications’ menu

♦   The Directory of Open Access Journals can be used to find open access journals in many subject areas. It has a ‘by subject’ section – once you have selected a subject, you need to limit the results to journal.

♦   Publishers may also provide lists of their journals which can be browsed  by discipline or subject. For example Browse Sage journals

♦   There are also subject specific directories of journals. For example, in the Health disciplines there is the NLM catalog : journals referenced in the NCBI Databases

♦   Google Scholar Metrics has lists of journals in subject categories.  However, they are quite broad areas.

Consider professional body guidance and publications
There could be academic or professional body guidance that you can refer to. For example, the Chartered Association of Business Schools CABS Academic Journal Guide 2018

Your professional body may publish journals which would therefore be journals worth considering. For example the Royal Society of Chemistry journals.

Find journals that publish similar articles
If you are not sure which journals publish articles in your area, you can use a relevant library database (find these using the Library’s subject guides) or a generic database like Scopus to search for articles on your topic or by a key researchers and then look to see which journals the articles are from.

Some databases have features which can help you with this process.  For example, in Scopus, the ‘Analyze search results’ feature can be used to show you a list of the journals that the articles in your search were published in, sorted by how many of the articles come from each journal.

Consider using journal selectors/finders
You may come across tools that are designed to help you select a journal to publish in. These are usually limited to journals in a particular field, or to journals from particular publishers:

There are other journal selectors also available, but please be careful before posting the abstract and other details of you article to a site without considering if there are any copyright and confidentiality issues.

If you have an EndNote online account, the “Match” option helps you to find possible journals using a system called Manuscript Matcher. It recommends journals based on the articles in your database. This short video shows you how manuscript matcher works.


Once you have a shortlist of possible journals you should consider each journal in more detail. Below are some of the things you should consider:

Does it meet funder and REF requirements

There may be particular conditions relating to publication attached by any funders of your research.  For example, you may need to meet funders requirements for Open Access.  Check the terms and conditions of your research grant or contract.

Does the journal meet the REF Open Access requirements?  Research England’s Open Access policy requires that in order to be eligible for the next REF, journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN must be made available via the University’s institutional repository (SHURA) within three months of the date of acceptance.    Journal publishers may require an embargo period before the full text of your output can be made freely available (although it still needs to be on SHURA as a closed deposit). The length of an acceptable embargo period differs between REF panels:

  • panel A (health, life sciences) 12 months
  • panel B (physical sciences, technology, engineering and maths) 12 months
  • panel C (social sciences) 24 months
  • panel D (arts and humanities) 24 months

You can check a journal’s embargo period using SHERPA RoMEO. If you are unsure about whether your chosen journal will enable you to meet the REF requirements, please contact the Library Research Support Team or your Unit of Assessment Co-ordinator.

What is the scope of the journal

Have a look at the website of the journal to find a description of the scope of the journal.  You could also look at articles in previous issues to see the scope and types of articles published.

Consider:

  • does your research topic fit with the stated topic coverage
  • is the methodology you used appropriate
  • is the type of article accepted (original research, literature review, discussion, case study, etc.)
  • what is the required length of the article

Below are links to some example journal scope statements:

Will it reach your intended audience

Investigate whether the journal will reach your target audience.  You may be able to find this information on the journal’s website or by considering the nature of the articles previously published.  Consider whether it is:

  • generalist or specific
  • aimed at practitioners, professionals, researchers or the public
  • targeted at a specific region, country or area
How discoverable is the journal

Your research will reach a wider audience and have more impact if it can found easily.  Check if the major databases in your subject area index the journal (you can find relevant databases using the Library’s subject guides).

To find if a database indexes a journal:

How to make your research Open Access

Most journals provide information on their web pages about how Open Access can be achieved when publishing with that journal. This is important to understand in order to ensure that you are complying with HEFCE requirements for the REF, any Funder Requirements and SHU’s Open Access publication policy.  In addition, if you make your work Open Access, it will reach a wider audience and could improve your academic impact.

Check that the journal allows Open Access either through the ‘green’ or the ‘gold’ route

  • The ‘green’ route to Open Access is via self-archiving in a repository such as SHURA, alongside publication in a subscription journal.  Self-archiving is free, but there may be an embargo period before the full text can be made available. You can check journals in the SHERPA Romeo service to find out their policy on self-archiving in an institutional or other repository  and about any embargo periods (you may need to check against acceptable embargo periods for the REF).  There are some publishers who do not require embargo periods, for example Emerald. You may also wish to find out more about how to deposit your research outputs in SHURA.
  • The ‘gold’ route to Open Access is via the publisher’s website and usually involves paying a fee called an article process charge (APC).   If you are considering a journal which offers this route, have a look at this page on how to get funding for ‘gold’ Open Access.

Our Open Access pages provide more information about the routes to Open Access, how to comply with the REF requirements, how to get funding for APCs, etc.

The journal´s peer review process

You should check that the journal you are choosing undertakes this important quality control process and that you are happy with the type of peer review that the journal uses. This information is usually provided on the journal’s web pages.

What is peer review?

The peer review process is a fundamental part of the system for ensuring the quality of research in publications.

The Research Information Network has published an excellent introduction to Peer review: a guide for researchers that explains what it is and how it works. It also gives an overview of issues relating to peer review,  such as effectiveness, transparency, efficiency and speed.

Editage Insights’ introduction to the peer review process and editorial decision making at journals may also be of interest

The SHU principles of good research practice for peer reviewers provides a code of conduct for individuals who review the work of others, and for those who submit work for peer review.

What are the different types of peer review?

Common types of peer review include:

  • single blind (reviewers names are not revealed)
  • double blind (author and reviewers names are not revealed)
  • open (the process is transparent)

There are a small number of journals which use post publication peer review.  This article from F1000 Research is helpful in explaining “what is post publication peer review“.

The rejection or acceptance rate

As a result of the peer review process, some submissions are rejected (in fact this is very common for many journals).    You could therefore consider the rejection rate for the journal when you are deciding whether to submit to it or not. Higher prestige journals usually have higher rejection rates. However, don’t be afraid to aim high, you can always submit to another journal if you article is rejected and the feedback you receive may help you to continue to improve it.

To improve your chances of acceptance, try to address the common reasons for rejection described by Editage (2013) which include:

  • lack of originality, novelty or significance
  • mismatch with the journal
  • flaws in study design
  • poor writing or organization
  • inadequate preparation of the manuscript

Submitting simultaneously to multiple journals is not usually acceptable and most journals will ask you to state that your article is not under consideration by another journal. Please read the read the University’s principles of good research practice for publication and authorship which states that:

“Authors should not submit or publish work which is identical or which overlaps with work published or submitted elsewhere unless: the previous work was a conference abstract or working paper; the material is to be translated into a different language; the previous work was rejected by another publisher; or the work is part of a series of closely related papers for which there is full cross-referencing. This is considered acceptable if approval is received from the editors of the publication and original sources are acknowledged.”

The time taken to publication

If publication of your work is time critical, you may want to consider:

  1. the length of time taken from submission to acceptance (there are inherent delays because of the peer review process).
  2. the length of time taken from acceptance to publication online and to publication in print.
  3. how frequently issues are produced and if any promised issues have been missed

This information may be available on the publisher’s website, or it may be possible to work out from any submitted, accepted and published dates on articles or by asking the editor.  Bear in mind that if journals offer a very short time frame to publication, this may indicate a lack of peer-review or editorial processes and should be treated with caution.  However, some reputable journals do offer rapid publication or fast track processes, but importantly the peer review and editorial processes are still undertaken.   For example the Lancet Swift+ service.

The prestige of the journal

Take into account the reputation of the journal. If you are not familiar with the journal:

  • ask colleagues what they think
  • check to see if the authors publishing in the journal are well known in the field
  • find out the names of the editor and the editorial board members and research how respected they are
  • consider the reputation of the publisher. For example, professional bodies are often considered prestigious
The impact factor and other bibliometrics

Bibliometrics aim to provide a quantitative analysis of publications, primarily through citation analysis.  Journal level bibliometrics such as the Impact Factor, CiteScore, Scimago Journal Rank and SNIP can help you to identify journals which receive more attention in terms of citations than others.


It is very important to check that you are submitting your research to a reputable journal that you can trust and will enhance your reputation.

Checking the trustworthiness of a journal

Not all publishers follow the standards required to produce quality publications or follow ethical best practice.  If you receive an unsolicited email offering to publish your research, often also offering swift publication, be extra vigilant in checking the legitimacy of the journal – established publishers do not usually approach scholars and rapid publication usually suggests that peer review and other editorial processes do not take place.  One exception to this might be special issues of high-quality journals.

There are a number of factors you should consider when evaluating the trustworthiness of a journal.

You can also find more information on the ThinkCheckSubmit site