Patrick-Dunleavy-thumb1There is plenty to consider when making a decision about which journal to submit your paper to; ranging from basic questions over the journal’s scope, through its review process and open access offerings, all the way to the likelihood your work will be widely read and cited. Patrick Dunleavy has compiled a comprehensive list of these considerations, complete with tips on what you should be looking out for.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was some well-grounded evidence of the best place to publish your research? After all, you’ve sweated for two or more years on collecting the data or source materials, thinking through the issues involved, resolving problems, and writing up the finished text. You’re heavily invested in the work, and you want to get the best possible exposure for it in the optimal journal. So ask around in your department or lab and you’ll quickly find out that there’s a lot of folklore and anecdotes about where to go, but perhaps that different people give very different advice.

Often your department or lab may have a list of ‘recommended journals’, which may not be all that useful for various reasons. Often it is what was left over from some previous audit exercise — in the UK the REF 2014 and in Australia the ERA 2015 rounds. Often the list is where your local top professors publish their well-funded research (or perhaps where they used to publish in their glory days). But perhaps it hasn’t been updated for a while and has some obvious glitches. It can also often be just a kind of ‘idiot board’ including any journal over a certain Journal Impact Factor level, even though this JIF indicator is completely discredited— e.g. it was outlawed from use in both the REF and ERA studies because of its gross limitation (see below for more). If you are a PhD student or an early career researcher, these lists are often just actively disabling — they may be out of your league for the kind of work that you have to publish and so just very depressing to read.

library-manImage credit: School man reading by Wonder woman0731. This work is licensed under a CC BY 2.0 license.

In fact, when deciding which journal to send material to most senior staff consider a wide range of factors, not just the obvious things, because they can all in different ways have considerable effects upon impact. There is also now a great service available in Google Scholar Metrics which gives excellent quantitative information about every journal in the world (of any significance), for free from any PC, tablet or smartphone. Just type in the journal name to GSM’s search box and get an instant reply, using two strong indicators discussed below. (Note: be careful to enter the exact journal name into GSM— e.g. if the journal uses ‘&’ as part of its title and you enter ‘and’ instead, GSM will just show nothing as found).

Beyond that what more can we say? Well, there is an interesting and extremely expensive monograph published in 2012 by Stefanie Hauser called, Multi-dimensional Journal Evaluation. I have tried to extract from this (as best I can) the factors that seem to have proven relevance to the choices most researchers will be considering. I have combined information from the factors she tested for with a wide range of factors mentioned to research colleagues or me as relevant to a recent research project on The Impact of the Social Sciences, which also included some STEM academics (for some free-to-view materials on this please visit the web page).

So I hope that the factors set out below are relevant for a wide range of academic and scientific authors. I’ve grouped them into five categories — about the scope of a journal; its review processes; open or closed access; coverage, scale and style issues; and lastly, the journal’s dissemination and impact.

I begin with some key aspects of the journal’s mission:


The second dimension concerns how the journal goes about reviewing your work:


A third key dimension concerns open access (still rare and often expensive) or closed access publishing:


The fourth dimension involves the fit between your work and some more specific aspects to consider in submitting:


The final set of factors to consider is what happens if a journal accepts your article. How likely is it that publishing there will reach a wide readership and begin to generate citations to your work?


To read Stephen Curry’s comprehensive and entertaining critique of JIF, quoted above, please visit his personal website.

This is an edited version of a piece that originally appeared on the Writing For Research blog and is reposted with permission.

Note: The title of this post was updated after publication.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Impact Blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our comments policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

About the author

Patrick Dunleavy is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he has worked since 1979. He has authored and edited numerous books on political science theory, British politics and urban politics, as well as more than 50 articles in professional journals. He is Chair of the Public Policy Group.

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