Selecting a journal

Explore the several factors to consider in choosing a journal to submit your research article.

What to consider

There are several factors to consider in choosing a journal to submit an article to:

  • Relevance – the journal should be relevant to your work and the ERA Field of Research codes should be within a strategic area for your College or research centre.
  • Quality – is the journal of a high enough quality, as measured by impact factors or journal rankings lists?
  • Discoverability – is the journal indexed in key discipline based databases, or a citation database?
  • Open access – can a version of your research output be open access? Consider publishing in Open Access journals. Victoria University may cover article processing fees for eligible researchers.

Journal relevance

It’s generally a good idea to work out which journal you want to publish in first and then write a manuscript specifically targeting that journal.

  • Check the aims and scope of the journal.
  • Check your references to see which journals you frequently cite.
  • Which field is better to publish in? For example, if your research is on bullying in schools does your research fit with psychology or education?
  • Check Field of Research codes in ERA journal lists (the journal should be relevant to your work AND be within a strategic area for your organisational unit).
  • Use journal databases to search by topic and then sort by ‘publication’ or ‘source’. Scopus is very good for this (and you can sort by highly cited).

Journal quality

A publication's reliability, integrity and quality needs to be considered when identifying where to publish. Evaluate publications in terms of the following attributes:

  • peer review
  • citation analysis indicated by impact factor or other ranking
  • international editorial board
  • international author base
  • coverage by an abstracting indexing service.

A lot of the above information can be gained by consulting the journal directly, sometimes they will include this information on their website. You can also consult Urlich's Web to find whether a journal is peer-reviewed and where it is indexed/abstracted.

Journal rankings

Journal quality can be measured by impact factors or other ranking systems based on citations – they identify the most frequently cited journals in a field.

Be aware that:

  • Many journals do not have an impact factor (in JCR) or are listed in a ranked list.
  • The impact factor cannot assess the quality of individual articles.
  • Only research articles, technical notes and reviews are “citable” items. Editorials, letters, news items and meeting abstracts are “non-citable items”.
  • Only a small percentage of articles are highly cited and they are found in a small subset of journals. This small proportion accounts for a large percentage of citations.
  • Controversial papers are not necessarily based on excellent research, they may be highly cited thus distorting the impact factor of a journal.
  • Citation bias may exist. For example, English language resources may be favoured and authors may cite their own work.
  • The ranking of a journal within a discipline is more important than a particular impact factor.

Alternative rankings

HERDC journal criteria

The following criteria must be satisfied for a journal article to be accepted for the HERDC:

  • The article must be published in a scholarly journal (not a professional journal)
    • search in Ulrich's Web for journals listed as 'refereed'
    • if not available in Ulrich's Web there needs to be evidence it's refereed – e.g. a statement from journal website
  • The article must be peer reviewed
  • The journal must have an ISSN – International Standard Serial Number
  • At least one of the authors must be affiliated with VU
  • The article must be clearly identifiable as research – e.g. meet the HERDC definition of research.

Publication checklist for journals

If you receive an offer to submit a paper to a journal, you must check the quality of the journal and also its discoverability and accessibility to other researchers:

  • Is there a legitimate peer-review process? (This is sometimes hard to tell from their website as they may claim they are refereed when they are not.)
  • What is the journal’s ranking? Is it ranked in Scimago or does it have an impact factor in Journal Citation Reports? Is it in the ERA list?
  • Are articles from the journal indexed in journal databases relevant to your field, or in citation databases such as Scopus or Web of Science?
  • Are articles harvested by Google Scholar? (Don't assume everything will be retrieved in a Google Scholar search – click on Advanced Scholar Search and type in publication name.)
  • Can you find out information about rejection rates?
  • Do authors have to pay to publish? (Note: This is a legitimate model for open access publishing, but is only of value if genuinely refereed.)
  • What is their policy regarding having a pre- or post-peer review version of the article in the VU Institutional Repository? (Most reputable publishers allow this – be wary if they do not.)
  • Are there spelling errors on the webpage or in the article titles of works already published with them?
  • Please note there are some companies who combine an invitation to present at a conference with the invitation to publish in a journal – for a fee in both cases. Do your research for conference organisers in the same way as for a journal or a book publisher.
Contact us
For assistance with getting your research published in a journal contact the VU Research Librarian or your College Librarian.