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Identifying Reputable Journals

Suggestions for avoiding disreputable or predatory journals and identifying reputable journals

Identifying Reputable Journals

With the proliferation of journal titles and frequent email solicitations for manuscripts, it can be challenging for authors to determine whether a journal is reputable.

Many tools exist for identifying suitable journals where you can submit your manuscript.  See, for example, the HSL Writer's Guide.

When evaluating journals, consider the following:

Avoid journals with traits identified by Shamsheer et al. (BMC Medicine 2017) or described by the World Association of Medical Editors
  • Did you receive an email solicitation which was grammatically incorrect, seemed unprofessional, or promised you rapid publication?
  • Does the journal website contain fuzzy or distorted images that may have been used without authorization? 
  • Does the journal website refer to its Index Copernicus Value, its Systematic Impact Factor, or its CiteFactor (not considered legitimate metrics)?
  • Does the journal website say "indexed by Google" or "indexed by ResearchGate" (neither of which use editorial staff to select content)?
  • Is the journal title or publisher referred to inconsistently in emails or on the journal website?

Review the Think.Check.Submit. checklist for ways to identify trusted journals.    Identifying Reputable Journals

Look up the journal in Ulrich's Serials Directory

  • This icon Refereed will indicate if the journal is refereed (peer-reviewed).
  • You can also find out what databases have decided to index the journal.
For open access journals, see if it's included in the Directory of Open Access Journals.              Directory of Open Access Journals
See if the publisher is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) or if they follow the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommendations.

If you want to publish in a journal that is fully indexed in PubMed, search for the journal title in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) catalog

  • Look for the phrase "Currently indexed for MEDLINE" in the journal description.
Contact a librarian for assistance.

Predatory or Disreputable Journals

Predatory or disreputable journals can be defined as journals that "do not follow best publication practices."  For example:

  • Peer review may be poor or non-existent.
  • Editorial board membership information may be incorrect.  (People may be listed there without their knowledge.)
  • Information about publishing costs or article processing charges may be misleading.
  • Journals might not be indexed in scholarly literature databases such as PubMed, PsycInfo, or CINAHL.
  • Websites might refer to non-standard impact factors or misrepresent where articles are indexed.
  • Content might not be digitally preserved.

A Note About PubMed

  • If you want to publish in a journal that is fully indexed in PubMed, search for the title in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) catalog
  • Look for the phrase "Currently indexed for MEDLINE" in the journal description.
  • Even if there are a few articles from a particular journal in PubMed, that doesn't mean that it's fully indexed in PubMed.  Some articles are available in PubMed (unindexed) because they were deposited in PubMed Central to meet NIH public access policy requirements and not because they published in a journal that the National Library of Medicine chose to index.

Beall's List and Other Lists of "Predatory Publishers"

The tools above will help you evaluate a journal or publisher. 

There have been attempts to create lists of publishers to avoid - including what was known as Beall's list (now defunct).  If you use one of the following lists, please keep in mind that publishers might change their policies and that evaluators of publishers might have biases.

  • A list of Possibly Predatory Publishers has been published by an anonymous group.
  • An archived copy of (last updated December 2016) of the defunct Beall's list of questionable, scholarly open-access publishers is available.
  • Another archived copy of the defunct Beall's list has been preserved and updated (last updated July 2018) by an anonymous postdoctoral scholar.
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