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Questions to Ask When Selecting a Journal

Nov 01, 2006

You have a finished draft of your article. Now you’re puzzling over which journal to submit it to. Fortunately, the research you did for your literature review can provide guidance as to which journals publish articles related to your topic. You can also identify likely journals through Ulrich’s International Periodicals Directory, then browse recent issues (or their online tables of contents) to pinpoint journals covering topics similar to yours.

Then ask five questions about each journal you’re considering.

1. Is this journal peer-reviewed?

If you’re an academic librarian who must produce high-quality scholarship for promotion and tenure, publishing in peer-reviewed journals is critical. Look at a journal’s front matter or author submission guidelines to determine if it’s peer-reviewed, or consult a standard guide like Ulrich’s. Many online indexes now indicate whether journals are peer-reviewed, too.

2. Is this a prestigious journal?

Everyone wants to publish in a journal with a good reputation, but opinion varies. Research shows, for example, that practicing librarians and LIS faculty rank journals differently. Ask your colleagues and mentors which journals they value most. Information on rejection rates, when available, may be a clue. (The theory runs that the more prestigious a journal is, the choosier it can be.) Another clue is a journal’s impact factor, as measured by ISI’s Journal Citation Reports. Remember that some tenure committees still look down their noses at upstart electronic-only journals.

3. Who is this journal’s audience?

Some journals are aimed at specialists; others reach a broader audience. Some are regional, others national, still others international. Is your article of interest primarily to readers with pre-existing expertise – in cataloging, say, or archives – or do you seek wide exposure for your ideas and research findings? Journals published by professional organizations often reach more readers than commercial journals.

4. How long will it take to see your article in print?

There are two critical time periods: the time it takes from submission to acceptance or rejection, and the time it takes from acceptance to publication. Journals vary widely in both regards, but solid information about turn-around time is hard to come by. A few LIS journals have begun to print this information along with each article, while other journals note typical time frames in their author guidelines. And remember, the time to publication will be much longer if your first choice rejects you, and you start the submission cycle over.

5. What role has this journal played in improving scholarly communication?

Librarians bemoan rising journal prices and the proliferation of new, narrowly specialized titles. As you consider which journal to submit your work to, ask yourself: Has this publisher dealt fairly with librarians? Is it committed to working on issues that matter to libraries, like long-term access to electronic content? What options will you have to retain intellectual property rights?

Want to know more? See “Publishing in LIS: Some Useful Resources” at