Which journal?

Factors to consider when choosing a journal

Journal quality - assessing the quality of a journal may involve looking at:

  • the Journal Impact Factor or the Scimago quartile for the journal (both based on citation data)
  • editorial board membership (do they have appropriate credentials?)
  • whether or not the journal is indexed by the major citation databases such as Scopus or Web of Science (as their rigorous selection process excludes poor quality journals and tracking citations for the paper will be easier if the journal is included in one or both of these databases)
  • the robustness of the journal's peer review processes

TIP: Aiming for a high quality journal is important, but be realistic about the quality of your paper to save time. If you are an early career researcher, your more experienced colleagues may be able to help you select the most appropriate quality level to aim for.

Journal scope - is your paper is a good match for the journal's scope? If not, it is unlikely to make it past the initial screening stage. Things to consider include:

  • Is the subject scope of the journal appropriate? Do you (or other researchers in your field) read this journal?
  • Do they publish the type of article (e.g. case studies, research articles) you are writing?

TIP: Read the scope notes on the journal website (often in the 'About' section) or search Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory by subject keyword to identify journals with an appropriate subject scope.

Timeframe - how long will it take from submission to publication?

  • A lengthy peer review pipeline will cause a significant delay if the paper is rejected and you need to resubmit to a different journal.

TIP: If time to publication is an issue, contact the journal to enquire about the average time it takes to get a decision before you submit. Sometimes, the timeframe information is available on the journal website. If it isn't, check SciRev to see if anyone has posted a review of the journal's processes.

Reach - how wide an audience will the article reach via this journal?

  • Is the journal read by your target audience?
  • If the journal is a subscription journal, does it allow authors to extend the reach by sharing an open access version of their paper within a reasonable timeframe?

Would you like your article to reach practitioners, industry partners, policy writers and journalists rather than be limited to just those who have a subscription to the journal? If so, consider open access.

TIP: The publisher's policy on open access is usually available on the journal's website or you can check the Sherpa RoMEO database of publisher policies.

Tools for identifying high impact journals

  • SCImago Journal and Country Rank includes the journal and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus database
  • Scopus: Journal Analyzer compares up to 10 journals on various indicators including Scimago Journal Rank
  • Archived Journal Citation Reports data for impact factors and quartile ranking per subject for journals indexed by Thomson Reuters
  • Australian Business Deans Council's ABDC Journal Quality List 2013
  • The Journal Quality List assists academics to target papers at journals of an appropriate standard. It covers the areas of economics, finance, accounting, management, marketing, tourism, psychology and sociology
  • MIS Journal Rankings provides information about the rankings of journals in the area of MIS (management information systems), compiled by the Association for Information Systems
  • Eigenfactor.org - the 'Eigenfactor Score' is a measure of the overall 'value' of articles published in a given journal in a year. Also provides an 'Article Influence Score' which is based on average citations per article

For more information, see Tracking research impact - Journal Quality.

Getting an article published in Science or Nature

For researchers, getting an article published in Nature or Science can open doors for the rest of their career. One of the six indicators used by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU, also known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong Ranking) is the number of articles published in the journals Nature and Science. Consequently, researchers whose articles make it through the ruthless culling process to publication in one of these journals are greatly valued by their institutions.

Getting published in Nature or Science is not easy as they reject over 90% of the papers submitted for consideration. If you love a challenge, why not give it a shot? Here are some tips, gleaned from various sources, including the advice to authors provided by the publishers of Nature and Science, which may help.

Nature

The Nature Publishing Group (NPG), which is a division of Macmillan Publishers, produces over 100 journals, 39 of them have a title that starts with the word 'Nature' (e.g. Nature Genetics, Nature Nanotechnology). However, NPG's flagship journal, which is just known as 'Nature', is the most prestigious one. It was first published in 1869 and is now one of the most cited scholarly journals in the world.

The writing style favoured by this journal is quite different to the style most scholars have been trained to use. For example, they advise authors to use an active voice (e.g. 'we gathered the data') rather than the passive voice generally used in most academic papers. Authors should also be mindful of the fact that most readers will be from outside their discipline so the explanations should be clear (not assuming prior discipline knowledge) and jargon should be avoided. Your submission is more likely to be successful if you take on board all the advice contained in their guide Writing for a Nature journal.

According to the Nature website, 'The criteria for a paper to be sent for peer-review are that the results seem novel, arresting (illuminating, unexpected or surprising), and that the work described has both immediate and far-reaching implications'. It helps if the title is comprehensible and enticing to a potential reader who may be scanning the journal's table of contents. More advice is available on Nature's Author resources.

Science

The journal 'Science' is sometimes referred to as 'Science Magazine'. First published in 1880, it is on a par with Nature in terms of prestige. According to Journal Citation Reports, the journal's 2012 impact factor was 31.027. Fewer than 10% of submissions are accepted. The Science website says that they seek to publish 'papers that are most influential in their fields or across fields and that will significantly advance scientific understanding. Selected papers should present novel and broadly important data, syntheses, or concepts. They should merit the recognition by the scientific community and general public provided by publication in 'Science', beyond that provided by specialty journals'.

It is a good idea to read quite a few issues as it shows you which topics are likely to make it through the first gate. This includes 'hot topics' (currently newsworthy) and controversial topics, especially if they challenge commonly held assumptions and theoretical work that addresses basic questions that are not yet fully understood.

For more tips, refer to Science's General information for authors.