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Evaluating Journals Before You Publish

Learn how to spot potential predatory publishers and hijacked journals before you submit your articles for publication.

Web Search for the Journal

  • Icon representing a web searchIs the journal within the top 5 entries on the first page of search results? Are there any scam alert postings?
    • Check multiple search engines (e.g., Google, Bing, Yahoo)
  • If the journal is open access, is it in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)?
    • Verify all claims! Just because they say they're listed in DOAJ doesn't mean they actually are.
  • Is the journal owned by other university or research libraries?
  • Who owns the journal website’s URL?
  • Does the ISSN check out in WorldCat?

Journal Name

  • Icon representing a list of journal titlesCan the title of the journal be confused with another journal?
    • May indicate a predatory journal (employs questionable publishing practices) or a hijacked journal (sometimes simply a website designed to solicit manuscript submissions and pocket the money)
  • Characteristics of hijacked and predatory journals
    • Amateurish website that may mimic a legitimate one
    • Simple submission format and low-quality articles
    • Short peer-review timeline and ambiguous author fees
  • Is the journal on a black list of potentially predatory or hijacked journals?
    • Beall’s List (Jeffrey Beall’s list was highly controversial and he stopped updating it in 2017; since then, it’s been updated anonymously)
    • Retraction Watch (tracks news and incidents of predatory publishing, plagiarism, falsified data, and peer-review scandals)
    • Cabell’s blacklist (a pay-to-view list to which UMSL does not subscribe)
    • Nonrecommended medical periodicals (includes popular magazines and is very subjective)
  • Is the journal on a white list of trustworthy journals

Editorial Board

  • Icon representing an editorial boardAre the members of the editorial board listed with their full names and institutional affiliations?
  • Are they experts in their field?
    • Visit their academic/institution websites
  • Does their information match what you can find about them online?
    • Check CVs, LinkedIn
    • Look for institution affiliations that may be misleading (e.g., journal website says Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, but LinkedIn says Weill Cornell Medicine in Doha, Qatar)

Peer Review

  • Icon representing a group discussionDoes the journal state whether it is peer reviewed or edited?
  • Does it outline a review policy?
    • Peer review process can take 2–3 months. If timeline is only a few days or weeks, be wary.
  • Types of peer review:
    • Common: Single-blind, double-blind, open
    • New/evolving: Transferable, collaborative, post-publication
    • For an explanation of each type, with pros and cons, see Wiley’s Types of Peer Review

Journal Website

  • Icon representing a journal websiteIs the journal website competently designed, functional, and well-edited? Some red flags:
    • Grammatical errors, misspellings, random capitalization
    • Broken links, missing/distorted images
    • Poor navigation, inconsistent or incomplete headers/footers
  • Does the website use original language?
    • Check to see if portions of the site were copied verbatim from a different publisher’s website.
    • Paste a paragraph from the submission guidelines or peer review policy into a search engine.

Impact Factor

  • Icon representing impact factorDoes the journal claim to have an impact factor?
  • Is the impact factor presented without qualifiers (e.g., an asterisk with a note in fine print saying it’s an “informal estimate”)
  • Does it match what is found in Journal Citation Reports by Clarivate Analytics (previously Thomson Reuters)?
    • UMSL database
  • Be alert for misleading or fake metrics, including:
    • Index Copernicus Value
    • Systemic Impact Factor
    • CiteFactor

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Publishing Policies and Author Fees

  • Icon representing publication feesDoes the journal clearly state its business model and publishing policies?
    • Submission guidelines
    • Copyright, licensing, and re-use
    • Competing interests
    • Open access (gold vs. green)
      • Gold: Author publishes in an open access journal
      • Green: Author archives a version of his/her work in an open access repository (such as UMSL’s Institutional Repository Library), regardless of where it is published originally
    • Long-term preservation
  • Does the journal clearly state how much money an author will pay to have each article published?

Journal Archive

  • Icon representing a journal archiveDoes the journal website contain a digital archive of its past issues, with links to full-text articles?
  • Do the journal’s articles make sense?
    • Do they use correct methodology, have valid conclusions, etc.?
  • Does the journal publish articles by a number of different authors?
    • Spot-check author affiliations

Indexing and Access

  • Icon representing information accessIs the journal indexed in more than one subject database (e.g., CINAHL, PubMed/MEDLINE, PsycINFO)?
    • Search for the journal in the database’s list of publications.
    • Be aware that Google and ResearchGate don’t use editorial staff to select content.
    • Journal websites should know the difference between indexes, vendors, and directories.
      • Indexes include CINAHL, MEDLINE, and Academic Search Complete
      • Vendors include EBSCO, ProQuest, and Ovid
      • Directories include Ulrich’s, Cabell’s, and DOAJ
      • If the journal claims to be indexed in Ulrich’s, be wary.
  • Does the journal publish articles by a number of different authors?
    • Spot-check author affiliations
  • Does the journal website contain a digital archive of its past issues, with links to full-text articles?

Publishing Schedule and Longevity of Journal

  • Icon representing a publishing scheduleDoes the journal clearly state how often its issues will be published each year? Does this match what you see in the archive?
  • Has the journal been around long enough to publish more than 10 articles?
    • If not, check the quality of the articles
    • For new journals, value quality over quantity