Choosing a journal to publish your research in can be time-consuming and even daunting, especially since most journals discourage multiple submissions in order to safeguard reviewers’ time. It is a common problem, no matter how experienced you are. While early-career researchers are unfamiliar with well-respected journals in their field, experienced scholars can become too comfortable with submitting to the same journals, thus omitting to find a wider audience for their work.
A good way to start is to focus on which journals publish articles related to your subject area to achieve a good fit. You can ask your supervisor or colleagues for recommendations and visit your university’s library to check the journals they stock. It is also helpful to search online for calls for papers in your field and browse publishers’ websites.
Prepare a shortlist of journals
Although multiple submissions are discouraged, it makes sense to have a shortlist of journals to go through, in case you receive a rejection. Check each journal’s aims and scope to find out if your paper is relevant to the journal’s audience and fitting with the journal’s purpose. You can also browse previous issues to see what type of articles they have published.
Does your paper fit a general-interest journal or do you need to find a specialist publication? Could your research be of interest to an international audience or is it more region-specific?
You might also want to read about the journal’s policies and procedures, especially its peer-review policy and what publishing option would benefit you – traditional or open-access journals.
It is important to publish in a journal with a good Impact Factor and steer away from predatory publishers, which exploit the pressure to publish within academia by luring researchers to submit their papers to low-quality journals and then charging high publication fees. Where you choose to publish your work can seriously impact your career progression, funding opportunities and professional reputation.
Prominent journals are indexed and listed in reputable databases – look beyond Google Scholar to information sources such as EBSCOHost, SCOPUS, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences (IBSS), Clarivate Analytics -Web of Science, the Norwegian List, Sherpa Romeo and WorldCat. Another source of information you might want to consider is the Scimago Journal Rank, useful for finding prominent journals under a specific category.
Last but not least, do check the author’s guidelines – imagine having to cut down your paper from 5000 words to 3000 or reducing the number of your references because a certain journal imposes a limit! If possible, do start your shortlist while you are still working on your paper, having a few target journals in mind with their specific requirements will increase the chances of publication.
You can browse Sciendo’s wide range of journals here.
Top tips for early career scholars
Whether you are a qualitative or quantitative researcher, here are our top tips to help you submit your paper in confidence.
- Do not rush your submission. Unless you are co-authoring the article with an academic supervisor or a more experienced researcher, ask a senior academic for advice and feedback.
- Your article should be well written, with correct spelling and grammar. It is a good idea to have it professionally proofread or ask a colleague to help you. If a journal offers an editing service, do consider it.
- Select an appropriate journal. Authors are asked to submit to only one journal at a time, so choose carefully.
- Once you have selected the journal, read its author submission guidelines carefully. These will include style and formatting requirements for the article and other instructions, such as the preferred format for tables and images.
- Ensure your title and abstract are clear and reflect your contribution. The abstract should include the scope of your study, the research questions, the methodology, the dataset, key findings, limitations and implications for theory and practice.
- When a cover letter is required, do not be tempted to replace it with a copy of the abstract. Outline the theme of your paper, highlight how it advances research in the field and explain how it fits the journal's scientific aims.
- Do not be disheartened if you are rejected. To give you an example, Elsevier claims to reject between 30-50% of articles. If you receive any feedback, do consider it to improve your paper, resubmit or find a new journal and move on.