How to find the right home (journal) for your research paper?
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You have put in a lot of effort and hard work in the research and then in writing up a good research paper that discusses the results and outcome. Now you just need to find a good ‘home’ for your paper. Getting your manuscript published in a renowned or reputable journal can be rather challenging to most postgraduate students and academics. There is always a high risk of rejection if you send your work to be published in a journal that is out of the scope of your topic of interest. Not all research is the same, so a good journal for your paper does not necessarily mean that journal is also suitable for your colleague’s paper. This highly depends on several factors, the most important of which is the research topic and scope of the journal. The primary aim of publishing your paper is to expose your research work to other researchers who are also working in the same topic.
A list of online journal finder tools
Searching for the most suitable journal, however, does not have to be hard. You can also search Google Scholar or other databases for high quality papers related to your topic, and check where they are published. Alternatively, there are a number of online journal finder tools created by reputable companies that you can use for free, which are listed below. Most of these tools are free, easy to use and very effective in retrieving a list of top matching journals. Generally, you submit your title, abstract and some keywords, and the tool would search prominent journal indexing databases for the most suitable journals for your paper, based on key terms that match best the journal. The aim is to pair your paper with a list of possible journals that you can compare and choose the best one.
Some important factors to consider when selecting a journal
Aims and Scope of the journal
The first factor to consider, and arguably the most important, is the main topics covered in the journal, as well as a scope that encompasses all the research areas the journal covers. This is highly important to check; sending your paper to a journal that doesn’t cover your topic would surely waste your time and you will get rejected. The best way to do this is to navigate to the Aims and Scope section of the journal website. If they do not have this, then you can search for papers that talk about your topic from the journal database. You can then briefly check the abstracts of those papers and determine if they are in the same area as yours.
Also, rather than sending to a few journals that encompass a broad range of related topics, if your work is especially interesting for researchers from the same field, it may be more suitable to send it to a very specific journal that is accessed only by researchers from your discipline. This way it would be listed with other articles that also discuss the same topic, giving it exposure to the right audience.
Is the journal reputable?
You need to check where the journal is indexed – Scopus? Web of Science? Typically, WoS journals are more reputable than most Scopus indexed journals for most research areas. Check the reputability of the journal and where it is indexed before deciding to send your paper over. It is not recommended to send your work to journals that are not indexed by either WoS or Scopus. Another important note is to be cautious of predatory journals that claim to be reputable, but are not indexed in any well-known database.
Journal Impact Factor
The impact factor (IF) is a metric that shows the number of citations of papers indexed in the previous two years (e.g. 2019-2020) for a particular year (e.g. 2021). This is usually used by WoS indexed journals to indicate citation count in general and is a good indicator of reputability. High IF journals are reputable but are also harder to get in to.
Publication method and exposure
Check the publication method of the journal. If it is open access to the public, then it is free to access and can be downloaded by anyone. This is good to increase the exposure and visibility of your work. So if this is your aim, make sure the journal is open access. Some journals have a closed access publication style, which only allow access by paid members or by members who are part of a registered institution. This would limit exposure of your work.
Expected time for acceptance, peer-review and publication
Most reputable journals take a few months to publish your paper, from initial submission to announcement of acceptance, to publication. They would usually mention that the paper is accepted for review/rejected within two months of submission, and then the peer review process would depend on factors like number of reviewers, availability of suitable reviewers, etc. The peer-review process aims to validate the research and outcome from a paper for novelty, relevance and contribution. The reviewers or experts typically do not work with the journal and are not even paid for their review. So reviewers are requested to review the paper by the journal, and the journal would wait for their decision to review the paper. Feedback by reviewers is often useful, even if your paper gets rejected, as you can use this feedback to further refine your paper and increase the chances of it getting accepted by a similar journal. The aim of a peer review process is to determine if the manuscript is worth publishing and makes a novel contribution to the existing literature, and this takes a while to do. So this can be a slow process and can take months, especially by high IF journals. So be sure to send your work to the right one, as sending it to the wrong one may delay your publication process for months or even over a year! Back to the point, the higher the reputation of the journal, the slower the peer-review process, usually due to the high volume of work they receive on a monthly basis. But the wait is worth it if you are confident that your work is of high quality and has a high chance of getting accepted.
Many high quality journals are free to publish in, and only charge a fee if you would like to keep your work as open access. Others charge an article processing charge (APC), which is the fee used to pay reviewers and others involved in processing your paper until it is published. The costs range from nothing to thousands of dollars, depending on the journal. But if there is an APC, check if your institution or university is able to cover this, which is most often the case.
Once you have considered these factors and selected the best fit for your manuscript, be sure to hire a skilled editor to edit and proofread the paper one final time before sending it for submission. Ensuring the paper is well-written, easy to read, and error-free would surely increase your chances of acceptance. Finally, be sure to choose one or two backup journals. If you get rejected by the first, worry not, you have a plan B and C! So refine the paper based on the feedback provided by the reviewers, and quickly send it to the next-selected journal to save time. Happy searching!