Selecting a Journal for Publication
An important step is to select the target journal.
- Look at which journals are relevant to the scope of your article : often these journals will be regularly cited in the reference list. Please remember that an editor can reject a paper if it is out of scope, even if the article is a good one.
- Look at the impact factor (IF) of journals. These can be obtained from the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI). The higher the IF the more prestigious the journal, but often the harder it is to publish in such a journal.
- Do not be too ambitious, only a small proportion of papers get selected for high IF journals, if you submit to a high IF journal and get rejected this can sometime risk the loss of many weeks or months in the editing or rewriting process.
- Look at the criteria for originality. Some journals have very stringent criteria, which are listed in the scope. Don’t ignore these.
- Decide how much time you have. Some journals can take one or two years in the editorial process, others a few weeks or months. You can get an idea by looking at the date of submission and acceptance for papers. If you are a PhD student that urgently needs papers for your cv, then go for a fast journal, even if it is low IF. If you have many papers already and can plan long term, sometimes a slower journal offers prestige.
- Look at the average length of papers in the target journal. Some journals effectively only publish short papers, and if you have a lot of data or information you want published, may not be best suited. Some areas such as very mathematical areas, cannot be adequately described in short articles.
- Discuss whether to publish in a open access journal. Such journals can be read by everyone, but usually it is necessary to pay a significant fee for publishing. Conventional subscription journals are free to publish in but may have a restricted readership. On the whole in areas such as biology, open access is quite common, whereas in areas such as chemistry it is much rarer.
- Most journals from traditional publishers are subscription only. Consider whether the target journal is widespread. For example, can you access this from your institute’s electronic library?
Also, you can read this article about “How to Find the Right Journals to Publish Papers”.This topic is more widely described here.
Reading the Instructions for Authors for Journals
Once you have selected a journal, the next step is to read very carefully the instructions for authors. These are usually quite detailed and differ according to journal.
- Check the reference style. Look at some published articles in the chosen journal to check you have got this right.
- Check length restrictions and whether electronic supplementary information is accepted.
- Check if there are any specific issues about how the article is organized. Some journals are very explicit about the way sections are organized, especially, if you have experimental data, how it is reported, and in what detail, whereas others are more laid back, and some do not even want detailed experimental information.
Things to Watch Out for When Submitting a Paper
Once the paper is completed, it needs to be submitted.
- Most papers are now submitted electronically. It is necessary for the corresponding author to register on the journal’s website, and in many cases provide a large amount of information during the submission process, e.g. the names and email addresses of all coauthors, title, abstract, keywords.
- Many journals ask authors to suggest names of referees. These are people that will anonymously judge the acceptability of the paper (these referees may not be picked and others may be asked, but if requested normally one or two of your suggestions will be asked). Remember many referees are busy so picking the “top name in the field” is not always advisable – they may get hundreds of invitations and accept only a few.
- Occasionally you are allowed to indicate people that you do not want as referees – these may be people you have disagreements with. On the whole unless you have specific reasons this option is not advised.
- Write a letter to the editor explaining why you feel the paper is significant. This letter is often very important, and can be quite detailed. Look at the journal scope and originality criteria.
- Sometimes journals also ask for a short statement of originality or innovation in addition to the letter of submission.
- In some cases it is acceptable to send more detailed supplementary information for editors or referees. This may involve alternative ways of analyzing the data, or additional experimental information. This is material that you do not wish published but which may help editors make their decision.
- In some journals you can also submit electronic supplementary information (ESI). This contains detailed material that you want published but is too large for the main paper. Usually the main paper should just summarize this, but you can request that more detailed material is lodged on the journal website. This is different to supplementary material that is aimed just at referees, and is material that you wish published but not typeset into the main paper.
Checklist of What to Submit
Hence a submission may consist of :
- The main manuscript considered for publication.
- A letter of justification to the editor.
- An originality statement, if asked.
- A list of proposed referees, if asked.
- Supplementary information for referees, if felt useful to help make a judgement.
- Electronic supplementary information for publication, where appropriate.
In addition, most journals require :
- Sometimes categories where journals are broadly based.
- Full author details often including their emails.