10 tips for choosing a scientific journal

Gepubliceerd op 12 mei 2023 om 10:59

After a lot of hard work the moment is finally there, all co-authors agreed to the content of your paper and you have permission to submit! But there are so many scientific journals to choose from, so how do you pick one that is a good fit for your paper? With these tips, you will probably be able to make a decision!


Tip 1. Check your references

In your paper you refer to other scientific studies. Perhaps one or several journals feature in your reference list more than once? This journal might be interested in your paper as well.


Tip 2. Not Tarzan, but JANE

JANE stands for ‘Journal Author Name Estimator’. On this website, you can fill in the title, abstract or keywords of your paper. JANE then suggests which journals might be a good fit for your paper. When you click one of the suggested journals, you can see which articles about the same topic as yours have been published in that journal. Aside from searching journals, you can also use this website to directly search for authors and articles.


Tip 3. Check the scope of the journal

If you have found a potential journal after tip 1 and 2, you can go to the website of this journal and read about its scope. Does your paper fit the scope and aim of the journal? Then it might be interesting to submit your paper there. Do check which type of papers they do not publish. Some journals, for example, are not interested in pilot studies or reviews.


Tip 4. What is the audience of the journal?

Your paper may be a great fit with the topics that the journal pays attention to, but does it reach the readers that you wish to reach? For example, if you have researched the effectiveness of a psychological intervention, do psychologists actually read this journal? If you have researched a certain medication, is this journal read by the people who typically prescribe this type of medication? If your paper is published open access (see tip 6), then it is accessible to everyone and tip 4 is still relevant, but less important for your final choice.


Tip 5. The I(mpact) factor

Every journal has an impact factor. This is a kind of ranking about how important the journal is within the scientific field: the more often papers from a journal are published, the higher the impact factor. Choose a journal with an impact factor that fits with your paper, to increase your chances of publication. A small, explorative pilot study will probably hava a smaller chance of being published in a journal with a high impact factor than a large randomized multicenter study with highly relevant outcomes. If a journal has many papers that are similar to your own study in design and size, this can serve as an indication that you have about the right impact factor.


Tip 6. Q-index

Aside from impact factors, scientific journals are also categorized into higher and lower quartiles within a certain field: Q1 to Q4. The first quartile, the Q1-category, holds the ‘best 25% journals’ of a certain scientific field. Q2 holds the 26-50% best journals, et cetera. Check whether your organization/university has a policy that all papers must be published in a Q1 journal. Of note: sometimes a journal fits into multiple categories and it can be a Q1 in one field (for example psychiatry), but a Q2 or Q3 journal in another field (for example epidemiology). 



Tip 7. Check if a journal has an ‘Open Access’ option

If a journal publishes Open Access, it means your paper will be published without restrictions. It means that anyone can read it, even if they don’t have a subscription to the journal. The great advantage of this is that you have an optimal reach for your study outcomes. If you have found two or more equally suitable journals, we highly recommend choosing the journal with the option to publish Open Access, after also checking tip 5. And then you should carefully look at…


Tip 8. … the ‘APC-costs’

If a journal publishes its papers with Open Access, they often ask for a reimbursement. These are the so-called APC-costs. APC stands for ‘Article Processing Charges’. Most universities have contracts with many scientific journals, which means the APC-costs will be partially or completely compensated. Your own university website will most likely have a list of journals and their APC-agreements. If you are connected to multiple organizations, it is recommended to use your university affiliation while submitting your paper. That way, it is immediately clear that you are entitled to the discount of the APC-costs. 


Tip 9. Make a top 3 or 5 of potential journals

It is useful to make a list with several suitable journals for your paper, while you are at it. Sometimes you face an immediate ‘desk rejection’. This means that your paper is immediately rejected after all your hard work, without it being reviewed by other experts in your field. Or in technical terms: it is not getting ‘under review’. In such cases it is nice to already have a list of other suitable journals at your disposal, so you can convert the disappointment over the rejection into a resubmission at another journal right away. 


Tip 10. Choose the right journal together

You have now made a list of suitable journals. The final step is to get to a communal top 3 or top 5 order of these journals with your co-authors. You can ask your PhD supervisors and other co-authors for their suggestions and their experiences with the journals on your list. You submit your paper at the first scientific journal on your list. If it is rejected, you continue with number two, and so on.


There, this concludes your search for a suitable scientific journal. Good luck with your submission! Submitting a paper is a whole process in itself of course. Check out our blog about submitting your paper for further tips!


Do you have any further tips yourself? How do you decide where you are going to submit your paper? Let us know in the comments or send us a personal message through the contact page!


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