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Selecting a Target Journal for Your Scientific Manuscript

Release Date: July 27, 2012
Category: Manuscript Writing

Key Points Summary

  • Selecting the best target journal for your manuscript can save you substantial publishing time.
  • The most important factors in selecting a target journal depend on your publishing goals; it may be most important to select a journal with a high impact factor, fast publishing time, or specific target audience.
  • Journals with a broad audience and high impact factor are not necessarily the right target journal for every study. Your research may reach more of your target audience if it is published in a smaller journal with a more specific topic focus or a lower impact journal that is widely read in your field.

Selecting the best target journal for your research is a critical step in your publishing success. Publishing in the right journal will help other researchers in your field find your work and improve your visibility. Good target journal selection can save you considerable time and effort by avoiding rejection from journals that do not feel your work is a good fit for their scope or readers. Selecting the right target journal can also improve the likelihood of accomplishing goals like fast publication of time-sensitive results in a highly competitive field.

Determining Potential Candidate Journals

With so many journals to choose from, the first step is to identify 3-5 journals that are a good fit for your manuscript. Visit journal websites to make sure that your research fits their scope and that the journals have published manuscripts in your field. Many journals have very specific areas of focus, and you should make sure that the journal focus encompasses the main points of your manuscript. For example, sending a clinical research report to a journal that specializes in basic research will leave you wasting time waiting for an inevitable rejection before you can submit to another journal, which ultimately delays publication of your research.

Selecting a Target Journal Based on Your Publishing Goals

Even after considering your specific field of research, you may have several journals to choose from. When you have a short list of 3-5 good candidate journals, think about your publishing goals to help narrow the list. Consider factors related to each of the following common goals to select the best target journal.

Goal: Get Published Quickly

  • Pre-submission inquiries
    Take advantage of the pre-submission inquiry process offered by some journals. You can save valuable time by sending a cover letter and abstract for the editor to read and consider whether the journal is interested in reviewing your manuscript.
  • Average time to complete peer review
    Some journals advertise the average time it takes for peer reviewers to return a decision on manuscripts. Shorter peer review periods mean less time waiting for a decision.
  • Cascading peer review
    Journals that automatically send rejected manuscripts on to partner journals for consideration can save you the time and inconvenience of repeated submission. Examples of publishers that use some type of cascading peer review include Nature Publishing Group, PLoS, and BioMed Central.
  • Typical speed of publication
    If a journal does not provide statistics on the average time from article acceptance to publication, you may be able to determine this by comparing the submitted, accepted, and published dates for articles recently published in the journal.
  • Online pre-publication
    Journals that publish manuscripts online soon after acceptance, regardless of the publication delay for print versions, will have your manuscript in front of readers faster. Many journals that feature an “online first” prepublication will publish an online version of your manuscript, often the same day that your manuscript is accepted.

Goal: Highest Possible Impact Factor

  • Finding journal impact factors
    Most journals list their impact factor on their website, which makes it easy to determine which of your candidate journals has the highest impact factor.
  • Balancing impact factor with audience considerations
    Your research is more likely to be read by other investigators in your field if it is submitted to a journal that is widely read in your field, which might not be the journal with the highest impact factor. Even when impact factor is important, be sure to select a journal that researchers in your field will read.
  • Journals with similar impact factors
    When several potential journals have similar impact factors, the best target journal for you may depend on other factors. For example, a journal with lower submission fees and online pre-publication may be a better choice for your manuscript, even if its impact factor is half a point lower than that of another journal in the same field.

Goal: Largest Possible Audience

  • Indexing
    Most established medical/biology journals are indexed on PubMed (MEDLINE). Many researchers use PubMed or other MEDLINE searches to find new articles in their fields, so publishing your work in an indexed journal will increase its chances of being read by other researchers in your field.
  • Readership and circulation statistics
    Many journals publish their subscription rates and other reader statistics on their website. Publishing in journals with a larger readership may mean that your work will be seen and cited by more researchers.
  • Open access
    Some journals offer open access or partial open access. Open access means that any readers who want to read your manuscript can access it free of charge, regardless of whether they subscribe to the journal. This may increase the visibility of your article, particularly among researchers at institutions that do not subscribe to every journal.
  • Methods of publicizing articles
    Journals that make a noticeable effort to promote articles and use a variety of avenues to reach readers may get your manuscript in the hands of more people. Consider whether a journal uses social media, blogs, press releases, awards, or other methods to promote the articles it publishes.

There is much more to selecting a target journal than simply choosing the journal with the highest readership or impact factor. Selecting the right target journal for your manuscript really depends on finding a journal whose scope fits your field or research and whose publishing characteristics meet your needs. Taking time to think about your publishing goals will help you base your selection on what you really hope to accomplish with each manuscript.

More Resources for Selecting a Target Journal

  • Springer Science+Business Media. How to choose a target journal. (accessed 26 July 2012).
  • Washington University School of Medicine, Becker Medical Library. Preparing for Publication: Factors to consider in selecting a journal for publication. (accessed 26 July 2012).

Journal Recommendation Service

If narrowing your target journal options from hundreds of possibilities is overwhelming, consider the BioScience Writers journal recommendation service! We match our Ph.D. and M.D. editors, to your manuscript according to technical expertise, and they will identify 3-5 potential journals for your manuscript in a report that describes each journal’s research scope, target audience, impact factor, and other helpful details. Please see [website] for more information. Please see our journal recommendation page for details.

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