AcWriMo: Choosing Where to Publish

The first thing that you need to decide when you are wanting to publish is where you want to put your work. Here is a list of some things that you may want to think about:

  1. What is the scope of the journal, and does it fit my work?
  2. What types of article are published? Do they fit with what I want to publish?
  3. What is the reputation of the journal?
  4. Does it offer open access?
  5. What is the audience of the journal?
  6. How long does it take to get published in this journal?

To answer some of these questions, you can take the following steps:

  1. What is the scope of the journal, and does it fit my work?

Often you can find information about the scope of a journal on the journal’s website. For example, the journal Ecology has its mission statement on its front page: Another tip is to look at the journal articles that you are reading; where are they published?

There are some fun websites where you can put in some information and the site will suggest where you may wish to publish (JANE: or the Elsevier journal finder:; however, this should not be the only way you decide where to publish.

  1. What types of article are published? Do they fit with what I want to publish?

A journal that only publishes reviews will not accept an article about fundamental research and vice versa. The journal’s website will often have information on the types of article it will publish; again see the Ecology website.

  1. What is the reputation of the journal?

The reputation of the journal is measured by many factors, and bibliomentrics and altmetrics are one way to get a feel for a journal.

Bibliometrics offer a set of methods to quantitatively analyse academic literature (see Wikipedia). This often consists of analysing citations to determine impact. Although not without flaws, bibliometrics are often considered an important part of determining the value and impact of a particular article, and they may be taken into consideration when making hiring or tenure decisions.

You might be familiar with traditional metrics for measuring the impact of research. For example, publications have their citation count; journals have their impact factor; and individual authors have their h-index.

The altmetrics manifesto argues that new forms of scholarly and popular communication (e.g. social media) require a rethink of how we measure impact; we need to take into account links, conversations and other ‘non-traditional’ ways of citing a paper. Some major databases/publishers are embracing new models; Public Library of Science, for instance, has expanded their take on article metrics to include online usage data, citations, social networks, blog and media coverage and discussion activity.

Although subject to the same flaws as traditional metrics, article Level, or Altmetrics can apply to people, journals, books, data sets, presentations, videos, source code repositories, web pages and more. Altmetrics cover not just citation counts, but also other aspects of the impact of a work, such as how many data and knowledge bases refer to it, article views, downloads or mentions in social media and news media.

Although not yet commonly used amongst researchers, higher level bodies like publishers and research councils are adopting them. It’s possible to view the Altmetric ratings for articles from publishers such as PLoS, Nature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell and Springer.

Several services exist to aggregate and calculate Altmetric scores, including:

For an overview see

Metrics are useful, but they can only tell part of the story. It’s important to keep in mind that metrics are not necessarily an appropriate way to measure quality. Simply being cited doesn’t mean that your paper is good (what if all the citations say that you’re horrifically wrong?). See this post by retraction watch on the top 10 most highly cited retracted papers – many with over 1000 citations.

  1. Does it offer open access?

Traditionally, research is written up into articles, which are submitted to a publisher; peer reviewed, and then published in an academic journal. Institutions must pay both to submit the article, and to buy the access to the article (called a journal subscription).

This limits the availability of academic papers to subscribing institutions, journal members and one-off fee-payers.

Open Access is about making research papers freely available to anyone who is interested, and as you may imagine, can increase your chances of being read and cited. For more information on open access, see the surrey web pages )

  1. What is the audience of the journal?

It is important that your paper reaches the people who are likely to read and cite your research. This means that you must make sure that your paper is in a journal that these people read. Is your work broad and multidisciplinary? Would it appeal to a broad audience, or is it more suited to a specialist journal? Think about the journals that your peers read and publish in. When looking at a journal, check out which authors are publishing in it, where they’re from, and what discipline they’re from.

  1. How long does it take to get published in this journal?

This may be something that you feel is important for you, or you may be willing to adopt the ‘as long as it takes’ approach. Some journals will publish a turnaround time in their information for authors (for example here; however, these can only ever be estimates and averages.