Where do I publish?

It can be a joy to see your research in print, but also a big headache to get it there.  Assuming you’ve executed a decent research plan and generated interesting results, you are now tasked with putting your work into the context of the entirety of human knowledge (seemingly), describing all your procedures and results succinctly but comprehensively, and fastidiously following countless rules of journal-specific formatting, from title page to references.

It is therefore quite deflating to go to all the trouble of formatting a manuscript for a journal just to have it immediately rejected on technicalities.  I recently had that experience.  The relief of finally getting the manuscript through the journal’s submission portal was superseded several days later by the unpleasantness of an email from the editor informing me that, while the journal was interested in the intervention being studied, they simply did not accept pilot studies for publication.

While going through the process of selecting another journal, I started to realize that this process is not as straightforward as it might seem and began to take note of what I was learning about finding the right journal for my work.  Here are a few ideas I thought were worth sharing:

  1. Search the literature. Generate keywords for your manuscript and use them to search PubMed, Google Scholar, or other appropriate databases for papers similar to yours. Journals that publish these papers are more likely to publish yours.  Read the journal and author information pages to ensure a good fit.
  2. Try a journal-matching search engine. Enter your title and abstract into a journal-matching search engine like JANE (http://jane.biosemantics.org/ ) or Elsevier’s JournalFinder (https://journalfinder.elsevier.com/). I found the results I got from these tools to be not all that practical, but the top-ranking hits can be fun to peruse and may give ideas for journals you hadn’t thought of.
  3. Check for fees. Search the journal or author information pages of candidate journals to see if they require Article Processing Charges or Fees. This is common with open-access journals, which defray their publication costs by charging authors.  You will want to know upfront if fees are going to present a barrier to publication.
  4. See where it’s indexed. Check the journal information page to make sure a candidate journal is indexed by databases commonly use to search the literature in your field. You can also enter candidate journal names directly into the NLM catalog (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nlmcatalog/journals) to see if a journal is indexed by PubMed.
  5. Avoid “predatory journals.” Predatory journals take financial advantage of authors without maintaining appropriate standards for scholarly publication. One sign of a predatory journal is that they will ask for a submission fee prior to acceptance (as opposed to an open-access processing fee charged after acceptance).  These journals may lack editorial boards, qualified editors, well-maintained websites, or peer review.  Issues of predatory journals may be published irregularly or not at all.  Work published by these journals may be difficult for others to access or reference and may be considered unreliable due to the risk of shoddy or non-existent review by academically qualified peers.  An online search will reveal lists of specific journals and publishers suspected of predatory practices.
  6. Gauge accessibility. See if you have access to the journal.  This is may not be completely necessary, but it stands to reason that if you can’t access articles in the journal, many of your potential readers can’t either, which will limit the visibility of your work.
  7. Ask the editor. After completing the previous steps, contact the editor of your top candidate journal with the title and abstract of your proposed manuscript and see if they feel it would be eligible for their journal.  Directly contacting an editor might feel intimidating, but can ultimately save a lot of time and effort.  I could have avoided a fruitless submission by doing this.  Instead, I avoided a second fruitless submission by subsequently contacting the editor of another journal who responded by saying that, while they did accept pilot studies, my manuscript would probably be a better fit for a more education-centered journal.  I was grateful to have avoided the extra hassle that would have come from rejection after a full submission.

The next editor I contacted thought our manuscript might be a good fit and encouraged a full submission.  Now, months later, the manuscript has gone through peer review and been resubmitted with revisions.  It has been a long process, but hopefully my manuscript submission story will soon have a happy ending.  Here’s hoping the ideas above will help you find yours.

If you would like to contribute to The Faculty Development Blog, please contact Tyler Rose at trose@roseman.edu.

Tyler Rose, PhD
Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy