Selecting a Journal

Selecting a Journal

The module will discuss types of scholarly journals, factors that should be considered when selecting an appropriate journal for publication, and provide numerous resources that will assist with the selection.

Learning Objectives

  • List the main types of periodicals and distinguish between them
  • Describe the characteristics of a scholarly journal
  • Explain the types of scholarly journals and the differences between them
  • Explain the key factors that should be considered when selecting a journal
  • Identify and become familiar with online directories and other resources that are helpful in the selection process


After you finish your dissertation, you will have a variety of publication options when it is time to disseminate your research findings.  Choosing the correct type of publication is critical to ensure that you reach the target audience and uphold the academic integrity of your work.  Therefore, it is important to understand the terminology associated with the various types of publications and be able to recognize whether a publication is a scholarly.  Scholarly journals are just one type of periodical publication and researchers should understand the difference between scholarly journals and other periodicals to ensure they are choosing academic publications for sharing their research. The resource, What is a Scholarly Journal, offers an excellent description and a comparison of academic journals to other types of publications. Once you are able to determine if a publication is scholarly, you should be aware of some additional considerations and terminology regarding the different types of journals

  • Peer-reviewed journals - Scholarly journals are also known as peer-reviewed journals, academic journals, and refereed journals. This refers to that the fact that articles in these journals have been subject to a peer review process.  The majority of academic journals go through this process.  An editorial board asks experts in the subject to review and evaluate all articles that are submitted to protect and maintain the quality and integrity of the journal.  This rigorous evaluation process lends legitimacy to the research and therefore, most researchers prefer to publish in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Open access journals (OA) vs. Non-open access (non-OA) - Open access literature is free, online, unrestricted access to scholarly journal articles. There are two ways authors can provide open access.   The first way is by self-archiving their journal articles in an open access repository, such as PubMed. This is also known as 'green' open access.  With green access, the researcher publishes in a scholarly journal first and then choses to provide open access through a repository or free online site. The second way is to publish in an open access journal, which is referred to as 'gold' open access. With this type of access, the researcher chooses to publish in an open access journal that provides free, immediate and unrestricted access to the journal online. Non-open access journals are traditional journals that publish in print or require the reader to have an online subscription to their journal.
  • Predatory Publishers - In the gold open access model, the author often pays to have their article published in the online journal. While some of these publishers do have a peer review process, researchers should be aware that many in the scholarly community feel these journals are more concerned with making money than they are sharing scholarly work.  Therefore, many gold open access journals are considered "predatory" because they specifically appeal to researchers trying to publish their work who are willing to pay to do so.  To uphold the academic quality of your work and maintain its integrity, it is wise to avoid these predatory journals.  How do you know which journals are considered predatory?  Beall's List of Predatory Journals is an online resource that is very helpful in determining which journals to avoid.

A peer-reviewed journal is the most common choice for publishing a dissertation in a scholarly way. However, the choices will still be many and choosing the appropriate scholarly journal to publish your research findings is a critical step in disseminating your research findings.  Your research will need to be published in the right journal in order to reach your target audience and have the desired impact.  Following is a list of the key factors that should be considered, as well as links to online directories and other resources, that will assist you in finding the appropriate journal.

  • Target your audience - Focus on finding journals most commonly used by researchers and authors in your field of study. Understanding the readership of a journal is critical. It will be helpful to become familiar with the scope and aim of the journals you are considering. For example, if your topic is a focused area within a discipline, look for journals with a narrow focus that will specifically target other specialists in your field, rather than multidisciplinary journals with a broader focus.  Instead of focusing on a large number of readers, focus on targeting the right readers. Finding the right "fit" between the journal and your manuscript is probably the important factor that will increase the likelihood of acceptance. You may begin by considering journals that you commonly use, checking journal websites for descriptions and reviewing back issues of journals.
  • Consider journal type - As discussed in previous modules, it will be important to ensure that your journal is reputable, scholarly, peer-reviewed publication. The Ulrich's Periodical Directory is a great resource for finding this information.
  • Find the basic journal information - Learn about the circulation of the journal, the number of times it publishes per year, number of articles per year, and so forth. Again, the Ulrich's Periodical Directory is a great place to look for this information.
  • Consider the impact, ranking and indexing status by citationdatabases - These factors will give you an indicator of journal quality. Some examples of factors that are considered are frequency of citations from articles in the journal, articles published in a year, citation influence, the journal influence index, the immediacy index and many others.  The indexing status refers to whether or not the journal is indexed by any major citation databases, which will increase the reach of your publication.  Following is a list of resources that will assist you in finding that information.
  • Likelihood of Acceptance - It may be helpful to review the acceptance rates to the journals you are considering to determine the competitiveness of the journal.  Some journals have acceptance rates of 10% or less and it is important to be realistic in your journal selection.  Some journals publish their acceptance rates on their websites or you may contact their Editor in Chief. Cabell's Directory of Publishing Opportunities  is another online resources that may be useful in finding this information. 
  • The review process - You may want to investigate the review process for the journal you are interested in.  How long is the typical review process for the journal?  What is their timeline for notifying authors?  If accepted, how long will it be until the article is published?  You can check the website or print copy for information about the review process.
  • Fees - Be aware that some journals may have fees for things such as reviewing articles, fees for use of color, processing fees, and so forth.  Make sure you are aware of potential fees before submitting a manuscript to any journal.
  • Author's Rights - Journals also vary in rights that the author is able to retain.  For example, some will allow author's the rights to their peer-reviewed article and they can publish it on a website or disseminate it further. Other journals are more restrictive.

These are just a few of the key factors that should be considered. The Resource Links on this page provide additional considerations and resources that may be helpful in journal selection. The following YouTube video provides additional insights into journal selection and manuscript acceptance directly from a journal editor.

Tips from a Journal Editor: How to Select a Journal for your Paper?

Suggested Readings

Antelman, K. (2004). Do open-access articles have a greater research impact? College & Research Libraries, 65(5), 372-382.
Brookfield, S. D. (2011). Addressing feedback from reviewers and editors. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Calfee, R.C., & Valencia, R.R. (2001). APA guide to preparing manuscripts for journal publication. Washington, DC: APA
Day, R. A. (1998). How to write and publish scientific papers.
Devlin A. (2006). Research Methods. Thompson Wadsworth.
Klinger, J. K., Scanlon, D., & Pressley, M. (2005). How to publish in scholarly journals. Educational Researcher, 34(8), 14-20.
Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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