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Writer's Guide

Collection of resources to support writing in the health sciences.

Nuts & Bolts of Scholarly Publishing

The UW Libraries' Nuts & Bolts of Scholarly Publishing provides everything you need to get started selecting journals for publication and reviewing author's agreements. It is intended for anyone in the university community who is interested in learning more about scholarly publishing, with information, guidance, and links to resources on:

  • Evaluating Academic Journals:
    • Fit: Determining whether a journal is a good fit for your research;
    • Impact: Assessing the impact of a journal, including citation-based impact factors, altmetrics, and the impact of open access journals;
    • Quality: Considering how a journal relates to standards in the scholarly community, including avoiding deceptive practices.
  • Journal Contracts and Copyright:

Finding Journals by Topic

Use databases and resources that provide information about journals to identify some titles that match your topic.

  • Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory  provides descriptive information about in and out-of print journals.  Search the subject field using keywords to find matching journals.  Click on the journal title in the results display to see more details such as whether or not they are Refereed and in which databases they are indexed.
  • Use JournalGuide and/or Jane (Journal/Author Name Estimator) to find journals (or authors or articles) that match your topic.
  • Use the Match feature in EndNote Basic (a free account with UW access) to suggest matching journals based on your manuscript title, abstract, or references in your library. A guide about using EndNote Basic is also available.

Use databases that provide some evaluative component about individual journals.

  • Journal Citation Reports (InCites)  is part of our Web of Knowledge database package which also includes Web of Science.  Use InCites to view journals by predefined subject categories.  You may choose to view the results in varying options including in order of Impact Factor. 
  • Eigenfactor is a UW endeavor that also provides ranking of journals by subject category.
  • SJR (SCImago Journal & Country Rank) is a free portal providing information on journal rankings based on the Scopus database.

For a more detailed discussion of Journal Citation Reports and Eigenfactor, see the Health Sciences Library (HSL) guide on Impact Factors.

Where Do Others Publish?

Use databases to find where others publish articles similar to yours.

  • run a search of known authors in your field in a database such as PubMed and scan the journal titles in the results

Use databases such as PubMed to see where articles matching your topic tend to be published.

  • run a search of your topic in a database such as PubMed and scan the journal titles in the results
  • run a search of your topic in Web of Science  and click on Source Titles in the Refine Results options to view the number of results broken down by journal

Additional Considerations

Avoid disreputable and identify reputable journals 

Use free databases to find information about a journal's position on open access.

  • SHERPA/RoMEO database - search to find permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher's copyright transfer agreement 

Use online lists of journals categorized by the way they address NIH Public Access Policy requirements.

  • NIH list of journals that automatically deposit relevant final published articles in PubMed Central in compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy (Method A Journals)
  • NIH list of journals that deposit relevant final published articles in PubMed Central in compliance with the NIH Public Access only upon author request (Method B Journals)
  • NIH list of publishers that deposit relevant final peer-reviewed manuscripts in the NIH Manuscript Submission system when the publisher determines the article is under NIH Open Access Policy (Method D Publishers)
  • Publisher Policies on NIH-funded Authors from Simmons University

Predatory Publishing

What is a Predatory Journal?

“Leading scholars and publishers from ten countries have agreed a definition of predatory publishing that can protect scholarship. It took 12 hours of discussion, 18 questions and 3 rounds to reach [this definition:] 

"Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices." (Grudniewicz et al, 2019, p. 211)

A Note About Vocabulary

"Whitelist" and "Blacklist" reinforce racial stereotypes and white supremacist thinking.

"It is notable that the first recorded use of the term occurs at the time of mass enslavement and forced deportation of Africans to work in European-held colonies in the Americas" (Houghton & Houghton, 2018).

Preferred terms: "Legitimate" and "Predatory"

How Do I Avoid Predatory Journals?

Knowing which journals use predatory publishing practices is less important than finding a journal that fits your article's focus and meets your standards for impact and quality. Focus on the Nuts & Bolts of Scholarly Publishing and Identifying Reputable Journals Guide before jumping to these techniques for determining if a journal uses predatory practices; your evaluation of the right journal for you should filter out most, if not all, predatory journals from your list of the top 3-5 journals in which you'd like to publish.

What About Predatory Journal Lists?

Can I just use a list of “good/bad” journals, like Beall’s List?

Generally, no. Considerations: 

  • Journal lists are created and maintained by individuals who have their own motivations and agendas.
  • These journal lists don’t always have transparent guidelines, or a way for journals to contest their inclusion.
  • Legitimate journals can incorrectly be listed on predatory journal lists for a variety of reasons.
  • Predatory journals have passed “sting operations” meant to prove that they’re not legitimate publishers.
  • Journals can appear in both predatory and legitimate lists. 
  • There is often no way to know which journals were considered and left off vs. which were not considered at all.
No List to Rule Them All

Graphic by Grudniewicz et al (p. 2).

venn diagram showing overlap of legitimate journals and suspected predatory journals

Important notes shown in the image above:

  • 1,135 journals: "Beall's list highlighted the issue of predatory journals, but faced criticism over transparency and legal threats from listed titles. It ceased operation in 2017."
  • 1, 34, 6, and 31 journals: "Some journals deemed legitimate by the DOAJ were deemed predatory by Beall's and/or Cabells lists." 
  • 11,306 journals: "The DOAJ relies mainly on information from publishers. It regularly purges titles that do not meet quality criteria."
  • Beall's: "Informally assessed by University of Colorado Denver librarian Jeffrey Beall in ~2008-17".
  • Cabells 'predatory': "Pay-to-access lists from Cabells, a scholarly analytics company".
  • DOAJ: "The Directory of Open Access Journals, a community-curated list requiring journal best practices such as peer review and statement on author fees and licensing." 

What About Legitimate Journal Lists? 

These can be flawed. 

Journal indexes from trusted sources:

Red Flags

The following is a list of red flags that a journal may use predatory practices.

  1. Frequent solicitation emails
    • Contain grammatical or spelling errors
    • Use incorrect title, name, or institutional affiliation
    • Journal not relevant to your area of expertise
    • Topic is not relevant for your area of expertise
  2. Duplicating legitimate journal’s site to steal payment information
  3. Journal name very similar to a legitimate journal to create confusion
  4. Article(s) appear in PubMed but the journal isn’t indexed in PubMed
    • The article was manually entered into PubMed to bypass PubMed’s safeguards against indexing predatory journals.
    • E.g. Listing legitimate but unrelated NIH grant numbers to appear in PubMed
  5. Guarantees or promises publication once fees are paid: Pay-for-publication model
    • Does not provide the same quality of editorial services as the standard in your industry or does not provide any editorial services.
  6. Rapid publication: very little time is dedicated to editorial process
    • Authors don’t receive any feedback or recommendations for editing, or the turnaround time is suspiciously fast.

Red Flags?

The following is a list of items that could be red flags that a journal may use predatory practices.

  • Newer legitimate online journals
    • Indexing and metrics take time, sometimes years.
    • For example, PLOS is huge today, but it had to start somewhere.
  • Online publishing is rapidly evolving 
    • Traditional model of publishing may no longer apply to legitimate, newer practices.
    • Increased interest in and need for open access.
    • COVID increased our need for rapid publication and dissemination. Some legitimate journals may provide the option of expedited publishing services.

Additional Concerns When Evaluating Online Journals

Is the journal indexed in a trusted source like DOAJ, PubMed, Web of Science, or Scopus?

Additional Questions to Consider

  • What is the journal’s reputation generally?
  • What is the journal’s reputation in your field?
  • Can you contact an author and speak with them?
    • Do the authors and editors named on the journal’s site list their affiliations and publications associated with this journal in their own personal info online?
  • Do you know anyone who has been published in it?
  • Do you recognize any author or editor names, or do you know anyone who has published with them?


  • All journals had to start somewhere. 
    • PLOS is one of the biggest online journals now, but it started small. 
  • Online publishing allows for new opportunities for publication, and the publishing landscape will continually evolve.

Guides to Finding and Evaluating Journals

Is there a cheat sheet?

Yes, over 90 (Cukier, 2019). Here are some options, each is flawed:


The Predatory Publishing content of this page was adapted from Caitlin Maloy's presentation (2023).


Cukier, S., Helal, L., Rice, D. B., et al. (2019). Checklists to Detect Potential Predatory Biomedical Journals: A Systematic Review. MedRxiv, 19005728. 

Grudniewicz, A., Moher, D., Cobey, K. D., et al. (2019). Predatory journals: No definition, no defence. Nature, 576(7786), 210–212. 

Houghton, F., & Houghton, S. (2018). "Blacklists" and "whitelists": A salutary warning concerning the prevalence of racist language in discussions of predatory publishing. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 106(4), 527–530. 

Maloy, C. (2023, April 4). Predatory Publishing [Google Slides]. University of Washington Libraries.

Scholarly Publishing in Health Sciences

For help with NIH guidelines, copyright and more, check out the resources listed below.

Planning Your Project

Consult relevant literature on how to plan effectively.

Here are some useful examples:

Open Access Publishing Discounts

The discounts below are particularly relevant to the health sciences, but the UW supports open access publishing with more publishers than the ones listed here! Learn more about the UW Libraries' support for and investment in open access publishing.

Unfortunately, UW Libraries does not provide a central fund for authors' article processing charges (APCs) at this time. If your publisher or funder would like an official confirmation of this fact, please email Scholarly Publishing and we will provide you with a notice.