How to Choose a Reputable Journal for Your Research

journal articles peer-review May 15, 2022
How to choose a journal for your research

Choosing the journal for your research is an important decision. You want to make sure that the journal you choose is a good fit for your article and will be respected by your peers. Not all journals are created equal, and not every journal is appropriate for every article.

What is peer review and why is it important?

Peer review is a system used to ensure the quality of research before it is published. It involves having experts in the same field as the author read the article and provide feedback. This feedback helps to ensure that the research is accurate and of good quality before it is published. It also helps to improve the credibility of research, because the methods and results have been vetted by other experts in the field. 

You can read about the typical review process in this blog post: Should I Publish a Peer-reviewed Journal Article?

Choose a peer-reviewed journal whenever possible. A peer-reviewed journal will describe its peer review process on its web page and will usually be listed by Scimago.

If you are considering a very new journal, or one managed by your local institution or department (don't discount these - they can be good choices for your first publication) and you can't find the information you need online, then you may want to send an email asking them to confirm that they use a peer-review process.

How to compare and evaluate peer-reviewed journals

When deciding on a peer-reviewed journal to publish your research, it’s important to do your research and compare journals before deciding.

The obvious place to start is by looking at your readings and reference list and seeing where those papers are published. This will ensure that you are targeting journals that publish in your field of study.

It's also a good idea to talk to your peers, supervisors, and mentors. Where have they published? What do they think is a good fit for your research?

From there you can narrow down your choices. Most of the relevant information you need can be found on the journal’s web page. You may need to click into the "Submit Your Paper" page to see the Guide for Authors. There are a few things to consider:

  • The scope of the journal: Make sure that the journal covers the research areas you want to write about. If it doesn't, this is a surefire way to get a 'desk reject'. This is when the editor decides not to send your paper to review. (This can and does happen even if you are within the scope of the journal. Don't worry. If it happens you can reformat your journal article to submit it to a different journal.)
  • The submission guidelines: Each journal has different requirements for submissions, and they can be very specific (word counts, maximum number of figures, section headings, file types). Ensure that your research is a good fit for these guidelines. For example, if you already have a draft manuscript that is 12,000 words long, but the journal has word count maximum of 8,000 you will either need to do extensive editing or choose a different journal. If your research involves special file types that you would like to publish alongside your article (i.e., video, 3D models, databases, etc.) it's important that you know that journal is able to facilitate this.
  • The impact factor: The impact factor is a measure of how often an average article in a journal has been cited each year. This can give you an idea of the reach and influence of the journal. A quick way to compare impact factors is to Google "{Journal Name} impact factor". Scimago provides other summary metrics, and the highest quality journals will have a Q1 ranking. The impact factor is not the only measure of quality, however. New and smaller, niche journals have lower impact factors, but can still be high quality and a good fit for your paper.
  • The peer-review process: Each journal has their own peer-review process. More commonly, peer review is single blind, which means that the reviewers know the identity of the author, but not vice-versa. In double blind review, the reviewers and authors do not know the identities of each other. In open review, the identities are revealed both ways. Each process has its pros and cons, and the best practice for you will depend on your particular situation. This is probably a less important factor for your first few publications, but it is something to be aware of.
  • The publishing schedule and timeline: Some journals are published monthly, while others are published quarterly or even annually. Some have quicker turnover times than others. It's a good idea to be aware of this before submitting your article. You may want to choose journals with quicker turnover times for your first few articles so that you can start building your reputation more quickly. But keep in mind even in the "fast" journals, the whole publication process takes a LONG time (several months to a year).

Once you have considered all these factors, you can narrow down your choices and decide which peer-reviewed journal is right for you.

If you have any questions about the journals you’re considering, it's a good idea to ask for guidance from your peers, mentors, and supervisors.

Beware of predatory journals

Predatory journals are those that do not follow the same peer-review process as reputable journals. They may accept articles without a peer-review process, or they may have a peer-review process that is not as rigorous. They make profits by charging authors publication fees.

How can you tell if a journal is predatory? One way is to check the publisher's website. Reputable journals will have an "About" page that describes the peer-review process, while predatory journals may not provide this information.

You can also check to see if the journal is indexed in databases like Scimago.

Another way to tell if a journal is reputable is to look at the editorial board. Reputable journals will have an editorial board made up of experts in the field (i.e., familiar names from your readings), while in predatory journals the journal editors will not be experts or even real people. 

If you have received a generic looking, form email inviting you to submit an article, it is most probably from a predatory journal. Reputable journals don't send cold call emails. (Once you have a reputation in your field, you may receive genuine invitations to submit to a journal's Special Issue. You will know it's genuine because it will be from an editor that is an expert in your field that you know or at least know of.)

Predatory journals almost always charge publication fees.  While some peer-reviewed journals also charge publication fees, they will be transparent about it on their website. When there are fees, its usually because the journal is open-access, or you are opting in to an open-access option. Sometimes there are additional fees if you would like your figures in color in the printed version. Importantly, these fees are usually paid by the author's research grant or their university, not their personal funds. In most cases, the publication fees in legitimate journals can be waived or reduced for those who don't have access to those kinds of resources (for example, postgraduate students and researchers from lower income countries).

If you're not sure if a journal is predatory, you can always ask your supervisor or another expert in your field. By taking the time to choose a reputable journal, you can ensure that your article will reach its intended audience and make a lasting impact.

How to submit to a peer-reviewed journal

When preparing your article for submission to a peer-reviewed journal, it’s important to follow the submission guidelines for that journal closely. This is why it’s a good idea to choose the journal before  you get too far along in the writing process.

The journal will typically have a section on their website where you can find the "Submission Guidelines", "Author Guidelines", or "Guide for Authors". Be sure to read through the guidelines carefully before submitting your article. Don't be fooled by the term "guidelines' - in most cases these are actually requirements.

Most journals use an online submission system, such as ScholarOne or Editorial Manager. Follow the instructions on the journal’s website to submit your article. This will usually involve creating an account, filling in forms, and uploading files. Most of the time you can start the process and save your progress to complete later.

In addition to your manuscript, you will also be requested to upload a cover letter, a list of potential reviewers, any figure files, and any additional supplementary files (if the journal facilitates this).

Once submitted, your paper is in the hands of an editor who will decide its next steps. Often you can check the status of your submission through the online portal.

The whole peer-review process can take several months to a year (or more), so be sure to factor this into your timeline.

If your article is rejected by a peer-reviewed journal, don’t despair. It’s not unusual for articles to be rejected, even if they are of high quality.

If your article is rejected, you can usually resubmit it to another journal. Be sure to implement the feedback from the editor and reviewers carefully before resubmitting your article.


Peer-reviewed journals are the cornerstone of academic publishing and are one of the ways that we can ensure that research is published in a responsible manner.

When you are choosing a journal for your article, it is important to consider the journal's scope, guidelines, impact factor, peer-review process, and publishing schedule. This will help you choose a reputable journal that will be a good match for your work. Avoid predatory journals.

Yay for getting your research out there for the world to see!

Happy writing!

Hi! I'm Dr Jayne Wilkins.

I'm a research scientist and academic publishing coach. I've been writing, reviewing, and editing academic publications for 12+ years.

In 2021, I achieved my long-time ambition to publish in Nature (woot woot 🎉).

Want to publish your research?

I can help you finish and submit that manuscript.

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