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Scholarly Publishing Toolkit

Scholarly communication support for authors and researchers, with information on Open Access and evaluating publishers.

Evaluating Publishers & Publications

Not all publishers are the same.  Whether traditional subscription, open access, hybrid, or monographic, it's important to evaluate a publisher before agreeing to publish anything with them.

All authors, editors, and reviewers are encouraged be familiar with guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics: Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing


Have a question about Open Access Journals?

See our list of Frequently Asked Questions about Open Access Journals for answers to 10 commonly asked questions.


 

What Should You Look For?

Not Sure of the Journal or Publisher?

Use the Think-Check-Submit checklist. Review it before submitting work or agreeing to serve as a reviewer. A few minutes can save your research reputation! (Considering an open access journal? Check our guide first!)

A few important questions from the Think-Check-Submit checklist are below.


For Journals:

  • Are the journal’s articles indexed in services that you use (e.g., Web of Science, PubMed, PsycInfo, MLA)? If not, the articles published in that journal do not reach most readers. (When checking these services by journal title, be sure you are spelling the journal title exactly as it appears in the solicitation or website.)
  • Who is on the editorial board?  Are the editors clearly identified?  Are their email addresses and/or phone numbers provided directly on the publisher's site?
  • Can you confirm that the editors really are serving in that role?  Do the editors have this position listed on their online CV?  Can you confirm with the editor-in-chief via email?
  • What is the acceptance rate of the journal? (Note: Some legitimate megajournals, such as PLOS ONE, accept any methodologically sound study that passes the scrutiny of peer-reviewers.  This is a new model that attempts to share good research regardless of trends in popularity or research interests, but megajournals should be closely evaluated for quality leadership, editors, reviewers, etc.  Not all megajournals are of the same quality.)
  • What is the impact factor of the journal?  (Keep in mind that impact factors can be manipulated and are increasingly seen as an inaccurate measure of quality that help large publishers and hurt small, but legitimate, operations.  Furthermore, new journals are likely to have a lower impact factor than more established titles.)  Regardless of whether an impact factor is provided on the publisher's site or not, use the Libraries' subscription to Journal Citation Reports to either verify the impact factor or look for it.
  • Who founded the journal?  Who owns it/runs it now?  Do they have an academic background?
  • Can you retain your copyright, or any subset of copyrights you want to keep, to your work?  For example, can you use the publication in presentations, in course readers, in future publications if revised and expanded?  Can you add it to your own site, or archive a copy in an online archive/repository?
  • Are there clear guidelines for authors, including when and if fees to authors may be assessed?  Legitimate publishers will be upfront with their publication practices.  For authors, there should be no surprises or uncertainty about a publisher's procedures.

For Monographs:

  • Who is on the editorial board?  Are the editors clearly identified?  Are their email addresses and/or phone numbers provided directly on the publisher's site?
  • Is there an editor for your specific subject area?  A good example for comparative purposes is the University of Chicago Press and their list of editorial staff.
  • Can you confirm that the editor really is serving in that role?  Does the editor have this position listed on their online CV?  Can you confirm with the editor via email?
  • Who founded the publishing house?  Who owns it/runs it now?  Do they have an academic background?
  • Are there clear guidelines for authors?  Legitimate publishers will be upfront with their publication practices.  For authors, there should be no surprises or uncertainty about a publisher's procedures.

The questions above are important consider in your evaluation of a publisher/publication.  No single consideration is more important than the others.  Publishing is a complex business, and these questions are designed to work in conjunction with each other to give you an overall picture of a publishing organization.

If you aren't sure about a publisher, a fine practice is to contact the editor-in-chief of the journal, or the subject editor for a monograph.  Also, use your common sense when evaluating the publisher's website and when using Google to find criticisms. Talk to your librarian or set up a consultation with the scholarly communication and publishing librarian for more information.