How to select the right journal for manuscript publication

Most novice researchers find the process of academic publishing overwhelming given the strict standards of acceptance by SCI journals (about 15 to 20%). Besides writing an innovative manuscript, it is very important to select the right journal for submission. Even seasoned researchers find it difficult to select an appropriate journal for publication whenever they delve into interdisciplinary areas of scientific research. Some of the most important factors worth considering are the journal impact factor, the journal’s style guide, the scope of the journal, topics that are NOT included in the journal, disciplines that are beyond the coverage of the journal, etc.

All scientists strive to publish their work in top quality peer-reviewed journals of Elsevier, Nature, Springer, Wiley, etc. This is especially important for the growth of novice researchers and young PhD graduates as their research career entirely depends on their publication record in SCI journals. Peer review can be the most daunting task after the submission of a manuscript to a journal, but successful publication of a research work would help in dissemination of the findings of the experiments; it would invite collaborations with researchers in other university and it would increase your prospects of gaining research funding and grants. Journal selection is one of the trickiest aspects of academic publishing, which we discuss in detail in this article.

Many a times novice researchers and young graduate students submit their papers to journals whose scope does not comply with the objective of the research publication. Sometimes seasoned researchers also submit their work to an unrelated journal when they are just venturing into interdisciplinary areas of novel research topics.

Well-established researchers have the habit of submitting their work to the same journals, given their familiarity with journal editors and the peer review process of these journals. Today academic publishing is going through transformation by leaps and bounds, and experienced authors must explore the latest journals in open access publishing. Incorrect selection of journal can be a fatal error as even the best dissertation with high impact work may get rejected if the scope of the study does not align with the requirements of the journal.

The factors that need to be kept in mind for journal selection are as follows:

Explore the aims and scope of the journal: This information is normally given on the homepage of the journal’s website. Always read through the section “About the journal” to understand the content topics acceptable by the journal. Other titles that are worth considering on the journal’s website would be “Full Aims and Scope.” By browsing through this section of many journals, researchers can then pin-point which journal’s scope correctly aligns with the objective of the research study.

For example, the journal Clinical Cancer Research clearly mentions that the journal articles must have detailed laboratory procedures and animal experiments aimed at discovering novel drugs and anti-cancer molecular targets, which can be used in further clinical trials. Thus, the journal scope includes only specialized articles on oncological drug discovery. In contrast, there are journals with much scope for public audience. For example, PeerJ is a megajournal that accepts original articles from interdisciplinary fields of biomedical science.

Explore if the journal has already published articles that are closely related to your topic of research: After identifying journals whose scope and aims align completely with your topic of research study, peruse through the website of these journals to find articles that are closely related to your topic of research. You may type keywords (or title) of your research paper in the search tab of the journal’s website. Herein, the search engine would display all kinds of related papers that have been published by the journal in the past five years.

You must find at least 3-5 papers whose scope and aim is similar to your topic of research. For example, if you performed a research study on 250 diabetic patients but the related papers displayed by the journal only included 50 diabetic patients in their study, the journal may be more suitable for small-sized studies and may refrain from publishing your paper though similar papers have been published previously.

Evaluate the restrictions and limitation of a journal: Some journals do not publish case reports and systematic reviews; therefore, it is absolutely necessary to evaluate the restrictions and limitations of a journal before submitting the manuscript. Thus, even if the paper is well-written and completely compliant with the scope and aims of the journal, it may get backfired and rejected simply because it is a systematic review and not a randomized control trial.

The section “Information for Authors” must be reviewed carefully to understand the restrictions and limitations of the journal. This section is displayed on the website of all journals. Other limiting factors may be the wordcount of the article. For example, some journals publish papers whose wordcount does not exceed 4000 words. So if the author has written a lengthy paper of 6000 words, the editors would ask for substantial editing and revision of the manuscript prior to publication. Article processing fees is an important limiting factor as some top journals charge really high fees, especially in case of hybrid journals.

Evaluate the Impact Factor of the Journal: The impact factor of the journal is an important metric reflecting the overall journal quality and its reach in the academic community. The main of publication is that the paper must be read by many researchers across various countries. Although journal impact factor can never truly assess the quality of articles, it continues to remain a pertinent factor in enhancing the career of novice researchers.

For example, a novice researcher would have a brighter chance of international collaborations and research grant availability if the researcher successfully publishes a handful of papers in a high impact factor SCI journal like Science. On the other hand, an experienced researcher can publish original articles in a top Open Access journal like PeerJ, which may not have a high impact factor but it is truly authoritative in the international academic community.