Selecting the Right Journal (Part 1)

  Aug 25, 2016   Enago Academy
  : Journal Selection, Publication Stages

Chew (1991) surveyed manuscripts rejected by the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR) to investigate whether, when, and where they had been published. The results showed that 82% of the major papers and 70% of the case reports that were submitted to AJR during the study period were eventually published elsewhere (Radiology, Clinical Nuclear Medicine, etc.) or even in AJR within 18 months of being rejected. This directly tells us that selecting the right journal is a very important factor in the publication process.

We know that publication of research in peer-reviewed journals marks the last step in the scientific process. Through the process of peer review and publication, a research study is validated, disseminated, credited, and archived. Once published, a paper and the information it contains can be indexed, retrieved, cited, and incorporated into the knowledge base. When a paper is rejected, this process comes to a halt. Unless the paper can be accepted for publication elsewhere, the work will be lost. To choose a “suitable” journal is to select one that will maximize your chances of publication. Covered in this article are six easy steps to selecting the right journal.

Step 1: List the Field of Study and Related Fields

The first step in selecting a journal is to consider as many fields of study that pertain to the planned article.

Sample list for a Physics researcher
Research Topic: Fabrication of carbon nanotubes

Subject 1: Nanotechnology

Subject 2: Materials Science

Subject 3: Applied Physics

Subject 4: Physical Chemistry

Subject 5: Biomedical Engineering

Strive to create a list of at least five fields of study that overlap with the proposed manuscript’s content. Think broadly at this stage; the journal choices can be narrowed at a later time.

Step 2: Find Journals Related to Those Fields

Once you have listed the fields of study that overlap with the manuscript’s content, consult online resources, a university librarian, and/or professionals in the fields and determine journals that are published in each field. The reference list from your thesis may also provide clues to journals that publish in these topic areas. At this point you should also consider the stated purpose of the journal. For purposes of illustration, four broad categories of journals are suggested based on the target audience:

  • General or all-purpose journals contain elements of important social, political, and economic issues. They are usually designed for a broad audience and not limited to a specialty.
  • Review journals contain the current state of knowledge or practice in a particular field. They provide background information to those who want an overview on the current status in a field.
  • Research journals are predominantly devoted to reporting original investigations, including research in the basic sciences. They are usually read by specialists in a field.
  • Clinical or practice journals have as their dominant purpose documenting the state of current practice. This is done through the publication of case reports, discussions, commentaries, etc.

Sample list for a Physics researcher
General or all-purpose journals: Nature, Science

Review journals: Review of Modern Physics, Applied Physics Reviews

Research journals: Nano Letters, Advanced Materials


Concentrate your search on journals with online editions. They naturally have a wider audience.

Here are some helpful online resources to get you started:

Step 3: List All the Journal Characteristics and Competitive Factors

By now you would have listed around 10 or 15 journals. Based on online research and advice from librarians or colleagues, list some of the major characteristics and competitive factors of each of these journals.

  • Content and Coverage: Scientific journals publish numerous types of articles, including original articles, review articles, letters to the editor, editorials, news reports, commentaries, brief/short communications, and case reports. The research article is the most common type of article published in medical journals. Journals reporting original research are more likely to contain unique contributions to the coverage of a field and therefore are selected more often than those containing only case reports.
  • Readership: International peer-reviewed journals attract a wider readership than regional journals. English is the universal language of science. It is clear that the journals most important to the international research community will publish only in English. This is especially true for natural sciences. Most regional journals have now started to publish abstracts in English.
  • Publication Lag Time and Frequency of Publication: Different journals have different lag times for acceptance (from the date of submission) and publication (from acceptance to print). This depends on the format of the submission as well as the frequency of publication. For example, Rapid Communications are published quicker than Original or Review Articles. The frequency of a journal can be weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. The publication lag time for monthly journals is usually obviously lesser than that for a quarterly journal. However, the popularity of the journal (the number of articles waiting to be published) also plays a role here).
  • Impact Factor: The quality of most journals is judged by an index called Impact Factor. A high impact factor indicates that papers published in the journal are frequently cited in the same or other journals. Impact factor is a good indicator for popularity and quality of research. But be careful; this index is only meaningful in the context of journals in the same general discipline. For example, smaller fields like Crystallography do not generate as many articles or citations as do larger fields such as Biotechnology or Genetics.


None of the above journal characteristics are necessarily good or bad. The importance of the above information lies in matching your manuscript optimally to the goals and characteristics of the journal.

In the next post, we will talk about how to further narrow down the target journal list.



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