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Journal Selection Criteria: 8 Key Factors to Help You Decide Where to Submit Your Manuscript
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Research communication usually takes the form of scholarly articles written for publication in academic journals. There are many journals being published today on the same subject, all having slight variations in the focus and the format of articles they accept for publication. Choosing the journal correctly is critical to the researcher's strategy for getting his/her work published.

One important reason for a journal not accepting a manuscript for publication, apart from flaws in the research or quality of writing, is a mismatch between the journal's subject focus and style and that of the work submitted. A review article submitted to a journal that only publishes original research articles (i.e., full-length research papers) is certainly going to be returned to the writer. The advantage of having so many journals on one particular subject is that the researcher can choose between them to select a journal that will present his/her research in the best way and convey it to the widest target audience. What should come first: writing the paper or selecting the journal?
Ideally, you should decide which journal you are going to submit your manuscript to before you start writing. That way, you are sure to put down your facts in the correct format from the start and avoid unnecessary reworking of the manuscript later on. This will save you a lot of valuable time. In this article, we discuss at length 8 important criteria to help you decide where to submit your manuscript. Criteria for journal selection prior to manuscript submission
Given below are the 8 criteria which we have found to be the most important in accurately selecting a journal for manuscript submission. Using these criteria to decide on the journal will increase the chances of your manuscript being accepted for publication.
  • Is there a match between the subject of your article and the subject of the journal's focus?
    First and foremost, determine whether the subject matter of your article matches that of the journal. Journals are usually very specific about their subject area. Within the subject area also, the journal may focus only on a particular aspect of that subject.

    For example, Histopathology and The Journal of Pathology are two much respected journals which focus on different aspects of the same subject, namely, Pathology. Histopathology is intended to be of practical value to surgical and diagnostic histopathologists, while The Journal of Pathology contains articles about pathophysiological and pathogenetic mechanisms of human disease.

    It is very important, therefore, for you to assess prior to submission whether the journal you have selected would be interested enough in the subject and focus of your research to want to publish your article.

    What sort of research does the journal focus on? Is it theoretical (e.g., Acta Biotheoretica) or applied (e.g., Annals of Applied Biology)? Is the range of articles broad-based or very narrow in focus? Matching the content and style of your article to that of the journal greatly increases the chances of the manuscript being accepted for review.
  • Is there a match between the format of your article and the format preferred by the journal?
    Different journals use different formats for presentation of research work. Some journals publish only reviews, while others accept only original research articles (i.e., full-length research papers). Still others are broad-based and will accept a variety of formats, including short/brief communications and letters to the editor. The most common formats are as follows:
    • Review articles
    • Brief/short communications
    • Rapid communications
    • Commentaries
    • Case reports
    • Letters to the Editor
    You need to first decide the best format in which to present your research work. Should it be written up as a full-length original research article? If you are in a hurry to have part of your findings published, even before you have completed the full study, then a rapid communication is what you need. If you have done a retrospective assessment of cases you have seen, along with a comprehensive review of the literature, then your work would be better presented as a review article.

    Choosing the correct format in which to write up your research will enhance its presentation to the reader, increasing its academic value. You should not try to write up your research in an unsuitable format just because you are interested in publishing in a very prestigious journal which does not accept any other type of articles. In other words, select the journal which will showcase your research in the best possible format.

    Looking through past issues of different journals, as well as carefully reading the Instructions to Authors, will indicate the preferred format for articles. Time spent in carefully matching your research with the correct format and the correct journal is time well spent!
  • What is the readership and availability of the journal?
    When the article you have written gets published, you naturally want it to reach the widest audience. You should, therefore, consider the reach of the journal you have selected. The following factors should be assessed:

    • How popular is the journal among your peers? Talking to established colleagues will help you assess whether the journal is widely read or not.
    • What is the price? A very expensive journal may be bought by only a few libraries and not have many individual subscribers.
    • Is the journal highly specialized, with only a small but very specific target audience, or is it broad-based with a larger target audience?
    • Is the journal included in electronic databases? An article submitted to such a journal (or at least its abstract) is more likely to be found by an Internet search for articles on a particular subject. This improves your visibility in your chosen field of research and also may increase the number of times your article is cited.
    • Is the journal available online? With the explosion of Internet usage, publishing in a journal with an online edition is advantageous.
  • What is the journal's reputation (the prestige factor)?
    This is a very important factor for most authors, but especially for young researchers. Publications in a prestigious journal are of help to a young researcher when being considered for tenure or for research grants. However, prestige is a very subjective attribute, difficult to determine. Here are a few ways to decide whether the journal selected is considered prestigious:

    • Talk to senior, established colleagues. Which journals do they regularly read? Which journals do they feel have a high standard of articles? Most colleagues would be willing to give you names of journals they respect and those that they feel are sub-standard.
    • What is the journal's Impact Factor? This annual rating, calculated by the Institute for Scientific Information, ranks journals based on the number of times articles in the journal in one year are cited over a specified period of time. The higher the impact factor, the more prestigious the journal. If you are a young researcher, just starting to publish, you may find it more practical to send your manuscript to one of the middle-ranked journals early in your career. The chances of it being accepted for publication are greater with such journals than with the highest ranked journal which gets the maximum number of submissions.
    • Prestigious journals are able to have eminent researchers as members of their Editorial Board. When looking through recent past issues of the journal you have short listed, check the names on the Editorial Board. Are the Board members well-known in your field of study?
    • How long has the journal been published? New journals are constantly being launched, but not all of them are able to survive and most of them are discontinued after some time. Even if they do last, it takes some time before they start being included in databases. So it is in your interest, when you are just starting to publish, to pick a journal which you know has been around for some time and is entered in citation databases
  • What is the turnaround time for articles submitted to the journal?
    As a writer, you may be in a hurry to see your work published as quickly as possible, communicating your original work to your peers. On the other hand, you may have written a review article, reviewing all the published information on a particular topic, and so may not be in such a hurry. It is important to check therefore, how much time the journal takes from acceptance of your article for review to actual publication. Some journals list the date submitted and date accepted. Comparing these dates with the date of the issue will give an approximate idea of the turnaround time.

    If the journal has an online edition, does it post accepted articles there once approved for publication? This would let others access your work online, even if the article appears in print much later.

    The other factor you need to check is how many times a year the journal is published. A monthly journal will publish your article reasonably quickly if its article turnaround time is rapid. Some journals are published only quarterly, and an article submitted in January may appear in print only in April or even as late as July of that year. If you are in a hurry to see your work in print, remember to check this factor carefully.
  • What review process does the journal follow?
    Before submitting your work to the journal, you need to check the process by which submitted manuscripts are reviewed. Most reputed academic journals follow a process of peer review. It is in your interest to submit your work to peer-reviewed journals. A majority of academic institutions require faculty members to have articles published in peer-reviewed journals when granting tenure, or when being considered for a research grant.
  • What are the charges for publication in the journal? Can these be waived?
    The Instructions to Authors will mention what are the charges (if any) for publication of the article. Charges are usually of two types:

    Page charges: This is the fee per page that the journal charges for publication. Total Page Charges = Fee per page x number of printed pages. The page charges vary widely. Some journals do not charge anything, while others charge as much as US $60 per page.

    Plate charges: This is the fee charged by the journal to publish color figures/photographs, as these are more expensive to publish. If the journal does levy a plate charge, you may wish to consider whether black and white photographs/figures will be adequate for your article.

    Please note that most journals assume that authors will pay these charges from research grants or University funds. If you have to make these payments from your personal funds, you may wish to indicate this in your cover letter. Many journals do waive the charges if they find that they will be a personal cost to the author.
  • What is the language of publication?
    Today, publishing in English ensures a wider reach of your article to peers around the world. While you may feel content with publishing in a language other than English in the short-term, it is good to take a long-term view of your career. You may apply for an international postdoctoral position or grant, or may choose to study abroad. In such cases, your publications in English will carry more impact when your application is being evaluated.

    It is also important to remember that if you first publish your article in a language other than English and then submit an English translation of the article to an English journal, you may have problems. The translated article would be considered a duplicate publication and to avoid charges of unethical practice, you would need to take permission from the editors of both journals and also indicate that it is a duplicate article in the second journal.

    In other words, you may wish to consciously choose an English language journal for submission of your manuscript, especially if you are interested in communicating with the international scientific community.s
Now that you have read this article, please use the guidelines in it to increase the probability of your research article being accepted by the journal to which it is submitted. Here is a checklist for making a quick assessment:
  • Does the subject of your article match the journal's subject focus?
  • Does the format of your article match the format preferred by the journal?
  • Is the journal read by your target audience?
  • Is the journal widely available?
  • Is the journal included in online databases?
  • Does the journal have an online edition?
  • What is the journal's Impact Factor?
  • Is the journal regarded as a prestigious one in its field?
  • Is the journal an old, established one (been published for a long time)?
  • What is the turnaround time for articles submitted to the journal?
  • How many times a year is the journal published?
  • Is the journal peer-reviewed?
  • What are the publication charges?
  • If the publication charges are being paid by you personally, and not from a grant, is the journal willing to waive the charges?
  • What is the language of publication?
  • Have you carefully read the Instructions to Authors?
  • Does your article fulfill all the requirements in the Instructions?

Accurate selection of the journal to which you submit your manuscript greatly reduces the rejection of your work. The 8 criteria given in this article will help you make the right selection. Once you have taken a preliminary decision on the journal, reading the Instructions to Authors is essential to discover the limitations imposed by the journal in the form of article format, word count, citation styles, photograph specifications, publication costs, etc. This will help you make a final decision.

It is very useful to go through a number of the most recent issues and assess the focus of the journal, the format of the published articles, and the turnaround time. Additionally, it may be of help to discuss the journal with colleagues who have published in it before and can offer advice on the focus preferred by the selected journal.