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Journal Quality Evaluation   Tags: open access, publishing, research  

This guide provides tips and resources for evaluating journal quality for research and publication purposes. It includes coverage of open access journals.
Last Updated: Jul 16, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
Journal Quality Print Page

Assessing Journal Quality Guide

  • Assessing Journal Quality
    This much more in-depth guide by Boston College provides longer explanations and more evaluation tools.

Resources for Evaluating Journal Quality

Start by looking up a journal or publisher in the resources listed below.

  • Scholarly and Peer Reviewed Journals
    UHD Library explains the basics about scholarly/peer-reviewed journals.
  • Ulrich's Periodicals Directory  
    Detailed information about journals, magazines, and newspapers. Includes information about which databases index each serial. Tells whether a journal is peer-reviewed, although it may be taking the publisher's word for that. Indexing in databases may be the best sign of quality.
  • Journal Citation Reports  
  • Cabell's Directories  
    Contact information for journals in many disciplines. "Cabell's Commendable Journal" indicates some level of quality (found in the journal review). Can search by acceptance rate range, so journals that accept 90 to 100% can be identified.
  • Scholarly Open Access Blog List of [Questionable] Publishers
    Jeffrey Beall, metadata librarian at the University of Colorado Denver, has begun a list of journal publishers he calls "questionable" and does not recommend. Not being on this list doesn't imply quality, but being on it implies a need for close evaluation.
  • Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association
    Membership in this association indicates a commitment to abiding by certain standards and a code of conduct.
  • SCImago Journal & Country Rank
    This tool shows how much journals have been cited, using the Scopus database data from 1996 on.
  • Google Scholar Metrics
    This resource uses Google Scholar data from 2007 on to show how much journals have been cited.

Tips for Evaluating Journal Quality

A particular publishing peril in recent years is the advent of many "open access" journals with publishing fees that purport to have genuine peer review, yet their contents seem to belie that. Besides examining the articles in fields with which one is familiar, how can quality be determined? There are no "hard and fast" rules that allow one to determine whether a journal is of low quality. A "yes" answer to just one question may not be a problem, but affirmative answers to several of the questions below may be an indicator. Examine the journal's and/or publisher's Web site with these questions in mind.

Is the journal's subject coverage broad and vague? Journals with the true primary purpose of making money from author fees want to be able to accept as wide a variety of papers as possible, so they may have titles such as "Journal of the Social Sciences and Humanities."

Does the journal publisher list many specialized journal titles, and lots of them? An alternate tactic to broad journals is to have specific subject coverage, but list so many titles (dozens to hundreds), that the maintenance of quality has to be questioned, especially when the publisher was recently established. Some of the listed journals might not have had any issues published.

Are the article reviewers and editorial board members of high reputations in their fields? Be aware that even if they are, they may not actually be affiliated with the journal. This can only be determined through contacting the person listed. Searching for an author in Web of Science (covering sciences, social sciences, and humanities) will let you know how much they have published and how many times they have been cited.

Are there many disparate articles in one issue with little or no organization? This tends to be characteristic of the broad, general subject journals. Wide subject coverage; no organization into "case studies," "research notes," etc.; no manuscript history information -- all may be indicators of low quality.

Are there repeat lead authors, sometimes in the same issue? Certain authors, especially in the sciences, are prolific. But multiple articles with the same author leading, or as sole author, published within a year or so in the same open access journal may be cause for question.

Is the journal indexed in multiple selective databases by different publishers? This is something that can be looked up in Ulrich's, and should not be accepted as true based on what the publisher says. Indexing in one database does not guarantee quality. Although journals cannot pay to get indexed in databases, sometimes database publishers slip up and let lower quality journals into their list.

Does anything come up if you search the Internet for "publisher name" scam or "publisher name" fraud? Others may have already found a particular journal or publisher questionable.

Jeffrey Beall, who has pioneered in guarding against predatory open-access publishing, has a more extensive list of criteria.


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