Navigating the Academic Journal Publishing Landscape

This guide is meant to help you navigate some of the common questions and concerns you might have regarding scholarly publishing. It is not discipline-specific, so please feel free to reach out to your liaison librarian for additional support related to your field.

The content of this guide is based on John Osinski's Navigating the Academic Publishing Landscape workshop for UNCW School of Nursing faculty.


Open Access Publishing

For decades, the traditional academic publishing model has been for authors to submit their manuscripts to publishers, sign over copyright to the publisher, and then the article would appear in a journal with a subscription price only affordable to larger institutions such as university libraries or clinical practices. With subscription prices constantly rising, many times at rates greater than the annual inflation rate, this publishing model may no longer be sustainable. Several alternatives to the traditional publishing model are emerging, one of the more popular ones being open access. In fact, an increasing number of funding sources, such as the NIH and NSF, now require that your work appears in a journal or repository freely available to the public as a stipulation of the funding for your research. 

Open access publishing benefits not only the public, but also you as the author. When the results of your research are made freely available, more people will be able to read and gain insight from your work. Randall Library is working on a pilot program to help alleviate some of the article processing charges (APCs) that can sometimes accrue to an author when publishing open access.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

Community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals.

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Seahawk DOCKS

Seahawk DOCKS is UNCW's portion of a shared database called North Carolina Digital Online Collection of Knowledge and Scholarship (NC DOCKS). Designed by UNC Greensboro and shared with UNCG, East Carolina University, Appalachian State University, and UNC Pembroke, NC DOCKS is designed to hold digital, online copies of faculty articles, white papers, and other scholarly works, in addition to student theses and dissertations. This type of database is often referred to as an "Institutional Repository," or IR.

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Looking For a Journal

  1. What journals do you and your colleagues tend to use in your research?
    • One easy place to start is to consider whether there are any journals that you tend to go back to on a regular basis. If there's a journal that publishes a lot of material that's relevant to your work, it might be a good place to submit your work as well.
  2. Does a professional association that you belong to publish any journals? 
    • Sometimes the flagship journals in a field are published by academic organizations that you might already be affiliated with.
  3. Are certain journals rated more highly by your academic department or RTP committee?
    • ​​There are many different ways to assess the impact of a journal (more on this in a separate section), but you might already know - or be able to find out - whether your colleagues value certain publications more highly than others.

Also, feel free to look at:

Cabell's Directory of Publishing Opportunities

Helps professors, graduate students and researchers to publish their manuscripts in academic journals. It offers current contact information and websites for a large number of journals. Also, Cabell’s provides information on publication guidelines, type of review, number of external review, acceptance rate, ISSN, submission process, and more. Coverage available for the subjects of Business and Education.

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A database of journals and submission details.

Questions to Consider When Evaluating a Specific Journal

  1. Is the journal included (indexed) in library databases that you use for your research?
    • If you can't find that journal in databases you commonly use, it might mean that journal is less well-known, less established, or even less reputable.
  2. What can you find out about the journal when you search it online?
    • A good journal should clearly state its scope, aims, and policies, including its peer review policy. It should also include information about its editorial team. (You might also search the names of the editors or editorial board.)
  3. What is the journal's impact factor?
    • If impact factor is an important metric for you, investigate to see how highly it is rated in your field. (More on impact factor in a separate section.)
  4. Is the journal open access (i.e. freely available)?
    • If not open access, what are the journal's policies on allowing you to make a version of your article freely available in a disciplinary or institutional repository? Are you required by your funding source to make your research publicly available? 

Evaluating a Journal's Impact

Impact factor is a term that's used broadly and that can mean many different things. There are a number of different ways to evaluate the impact of a journal, but before you begin, ask yourself what it is that you are specifically interested in. If by "impact" you mean that you want your article to be distributed and read as often as possible, consider an open access journal or a journal that will allow you to post a version of your article in an open repository (such as UNCW's institutional repository, Seahawk DOCKS). 

If you truly need a journal with a high "official" impact factor (perhaps for RTP purposes), some options for calculating impact factor are below. Also, please see the guide below for more detailed information on analyzing publications.

Journal Citation Reports

The Journal Citation Reports module within InCites allows you to evaluate and compare journals using citation data drawn from approximately 12,000 scholarly and technical journals and conference proceedings from more than 3,300 publishers in over 60 countries. Journal Citation Reports is the only source of citation data on journals, and includes virtually all specialties in the areas of science, technology, and social sciences.

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Part of the Web of Science universe, Journal Citation Reports is possibly the most commonly used search engine for finding a journal's impact factor. It is limited to journals that are included in the Web of Science Core Collection.

A family of eight indicators that offer complementary views to analyze the publication influence of serial titles of interest. Derived from the Scopus database, CiteScore metrics offer a robust indication of a serials impact.

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CiteScore calculates the average number of citations received in a calendar year by all items published in that journal in the preceding three years.
SCImago Journal & Country Rank
  • SCImago Journal & Country Rank can tell you what the impact factor is for journals in most disciplines.
  • To use:
    1. Click on the button labeled, "Journal Search." Type some or all of the words in the title of the journal you are analyzing.
    2. Alternatively, you can click on the button labeled, "Journal Rankings," to browse the top journals by discipline.
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SCImago calculates an impact factor based on an "average number of weighted citations received in the selected year by the documents published by the journal in the three previous years."

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