Find the Target Journal that Fits Your Work
One of the most common reasons editors reject research manuscripts is that they DO NOT FIT THE JOURNAL–either the goals and scope or the journal or the needs and tastes of its readership. With nearly 30,000 scholarly reviewed journals out there, it’s no surprise that finding the right match for your research paper can be quite difficult.
But don’t despair! You can actually take control of your manuscript publishing situation and improve the chances of having your paper accepted if you understand how journals operate and you come to understand their readership. To do this, you have to be smart about how you play the publications game and follow a few simple rules. Let’s find out how.
How to Get a Paper Published in a Journal
Sorry to disappoint, but unfortunately there is no single silver bullet to getting published. However, there are many tools you can use to find the most suitable journal for your paper—which is the most tried and tested way to get your paper published.
When using these tools, authors must understand one important truth: JOURNALS ARE BUSINESSES.
While journals certainly exist to benefit the research community by facilitating an exchange of ideas and making peer review possible, they must make sound business decisions about what they include in each issue of their journal. Because of the competitive nature of the journal publishing industry and pressure to outperform the competition, journals must always consider which material readers will find most useful and engaging—in other words, only content that will keep readers coming back.
This means that your paper is being evaluated not only on its objective scientific merits, but also on whether it meets these business demands. Thus, if you want to save time, effort, and heartache, you should think carefully about how your work would benefit a journal and its readers. To help you do that, here are eight simple tips to help you find the right journal for YOUR article.
Researching Your Target Journal’s Goals and Scope
1. Read the journal’s “About Us” and “Guide for Authors” sections
Reading the explicit goals and scope of the journal will tell you almost all of what you need to know about what that journal aims to achieve and what kind of articles it uses to achieve them. Journals almost always outline their goals and scope in two places: on their website (usually in the “About Us”/”Author Guidelines” section) and in their submissions criteria, or “Guide for Authors” section, in the published journal. These sections include the specific parameters of what types of articles editors will and will not accept. They will also often specifically state what types of research the journal prefers. Read these sections first before seeking any further information about the journal. Here is an example of the “Author Guidelines” section from Bioscience Journal.
2. Read many articles published in your target journals
While you are conducting your research—and even before you start drafting your manuscript—read as many articles in your area of study published in journals as possible. Even if you know a journal’s specific requirements, reading its papers extensively will help you better understand the types of research and articles its editors prefer. By surveying papers from the past few years, you can see how its editors define criteria terms such as “novel,” “interesting” and “sufficient conceptual advancement,” as well as gain an overall understanding of the writing style of articles in the journal.
3. Collect a list of journals publishing research similar to yours
In addition to reading information about the journals you are already looking at, broaden your search to include journals publishing research similar to yours. If your investigation belongs to a particular niche, then selecting a specialized publication would increase your odds of being accepted and maximize your target audience reach. If your article is published in the right specialist journal, a higher percentage of subscribers would likely read your paper or find it relevant to their own studies.
4. Check the Impact Factor of the journal
Because you probably want to submit to journals that are respected and contain articles referenced by other researchers, you should take the time to research your target journal’s Impact Factor (IF). This metric is based on how often articles published in that journal during the previous two years (e.g. 2016-2017) were cited by articles published in a particular year (e.g. 2018). The higher a journal’s impact factor, the more frequently articles in that journal were cited by other authors.
This number gives an approximation of how prestigious a journal is in its field. Although there are strong arguments regarding this method of determining quality, the Impact Factor is still the preferred method of gauging a journal’s prestige. Keep in mind that, the higher the journal’s prestige, the more competitive its submissions field. You should consider the time and effort it will take to submit to a high-ranking journal and decide whether it is worth it for your specific situation. It is a good idea to base this decision on factors such as your publication experience, the scientific value of your research, and the quality of your submitted manuscript. Although most researchers would be thrilled to be published in a high-profile journal like Nature, if you have very little to no publication experience, it is almost always a good idea to manage your expectations and submit to slightly less prestigious journals.
Researching Your Target Journal’s Methodology
1. Examine each journal’s submission process
One factor to consider when you select a journal is the process by which its articles are submitted and considered. Make a checklist to determine whether you are willing (and your paper is ready) to undergo certain kinds of scrutiny and waiting periods. Here are some questions you should find answers to:
• What is the journal’s peer-review process? Is it a closed or open process?
• How are the different publication criteria weighted?
• Do reviewers separate technical reviews from broader questions about research significance?
• How long is the submission process? For some journals, the review process takes weeks; while others could take months. Will the journal’s average review time be sufficient for the nature of your work?
Considering the details of each journal’s submission process and weighing them against those of other journals will help you decide which journal best suits your publication goals.
2. Examine each journal’s publication method
The journal’s publication method will determine how available your published work will be—to researchers and to the public. If the journal is open access, it will be freely available to anyone searching your work on databases. If it is closed access, it may only be available only through traditional subscription services. Read about some of the pros and cons about publishing in an open journal versus a closed journal.
3. Use journal search tools to locate target journals
If simple online search tools are not quite leading you to your target journal, make full use of the various free online journal finder tools to narrow your choices. Tools like Elsevier Journal Finder, Journal/Author Name Estimator (JANE), and Springer Journal Suggester allow you to search databases using keywords, your manuscript title, and your abstract to find suitable journal matches for your research. If there are reasons why you must publish open access, note that most journals on these databases have open access options explained on the journal homepage
4. Draft your manuscript to suit your target journal
If you find that there are aspects of your research that just do not fit the scope of almost any journal out there, why not take a different approach and try to tailor your paper to the objectives of the journal that most closely suits your research?
To determine if this is possible, ask yourself a crucial question:
• “Can I use the research in this paper to support a topic that would further the journal’s objectives?”
If it is possible, ask yourself how it can be accomplished:
• “How can I present my research in a way that would both further the journal’s objectives and be interesting and useful for its readers?”
Structure your research paper to answer questions that would genuinely interest the journal’s audience. For instance, if the results of your study pertain specifically to some esoteric method of cancer treatment not yet being widely considered in scientific communities (or even being generally dismissed), perhaps reframe the lens of your Discussion section to focus on implications for wider cancer research; or perhaps consider a journal publishes more experimental research and accentuate the novel and “cutting-edge” qualities of your study within the manuscript. When it comes to publications, how your manuscript is framed, especially in terms of purpose and implications, can be almost as important as the empirical data and results derived from the study.
Consider the Target Readership of the Journal
As you should be well aware of by now, journals care greatly about their readers’ reactions to published content. Therefore, you need to ask yourself some basic reader-centric questions before you submit to a given journal: Will their readers find your work engaging? Will they learn something new that can help them with their own work? Will the strength and importance of your article bring the readers back to that journal for more? Although your research might seem very specific, always think of the bigger picture and use your manuscript to show others why the work on which you have toiled for hundreds of hours is actually WORTH the paper (or pixels) it is printed on. We know there is a journal out there for you. Best of luck!
Important tips before choosing a journal (From Elsevier):
• Check if the journal is invitation-only as some journals will only accept articles after inviting the author
• Submit your paper to only one journal at the time
• Check the journal performance for the review and publication timelines
For more useful information on the research writing and publication process, visit Wordvice for research paper editing before submitting, and check out our Writing Resources pages for writing tips before and during the drafting process.
And use our free citation generator to ensure that your references and in-text citations are accurate and up to date.
Target Journal Resources
Publisso. “Open access versus closed access publication.”
Elsevier. Elsevier Journal Finder
Edanz. Edanz Journal Selector
JANE. Journal/Author Name Estimator (JANE)
Scimago. Journal and Country Ranking
Springer. Springer Journal Suggester
Wordvice Writing Resources
How to Write a Compelling Research Introduction
How to Write a Journal Submission Cover Letter
5 Reasons Manuscripts are Rejected (and what to do about it)
The Parts of a Research Paper: IMRD
How Many References Should I Use in a Research Paper
How to Paraphrase in Research Papers
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