Navigating the Academic Publishing Landscape Considerations

You've finished your research, written your article, and now you're ready to send it off for (hopefully) publication. On this page, we'll cover the variety of considerations and decisions that you are now facing. Which journal should you submit to? Are there tools to help you decide? Could the journal that you choose have an effect on the exposure and/or impact of your article? What are your options for retaining copyright to your work? Should you publish in an Open Access journal? What are predatory publishers?

Where should I submit my manuscript?

Automated Tools

One of the first things you may want to consider is which journals are likely to be interested in the subject matter of your research. There are several ways to ascertain this, with one of the easiest being the use of automated tools. The following are search engines where you can input text from your manuscript, such as title, abstract, and/or keywords. The search engines will then search through a variety of journals and find ones that have published articles with text that is similar to your input (i.e. journals that have published articles on the same subject matter).

A very good search tool for finding journals in the Health Sciences is Journal/Author Name Estimator (JANE). JANE, searches PubMed for the 50 articles that are most similar to your input. To help identify high-quality journals, JANE tags journals that are currently indexed in MEDLINE, and open access journals approved by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Simply type or paste your input into the search box and click on the "Find Journals" button:

Edanz is an all-purpose resource for getting your research published, including a free journal selector tool. You can search by using general terms, field of study, or abstract/keywords. Results can be sorted and filtered in numerous ways. They also offer other services such as review, cover letter development, and editing for a fee.

SpringerNature Journal Suggester searches all Springer and BioMed Central journals. Enter text from your title, abstract, and/or body of the manuscript.

With Manuscript Matcher (part of EndNote), you enter the title and abstract from your article. You can also add the article's references from EndNote. Manuscript Matcher will search journals indexed in Web of Science Core Collection, Journal Citation Reports, and the Arts and Humanities Citation Index. Access Manuscript Matcher by going to Web of Science. Click on the link for EndNote in the bar at the top of the page. Log in to EndNote (create an account if you haven' t already done so). Then click on the link for Match in the bar at the top of the EndNote page.

With Elsevier JournalFinder, you enter your title, abstract, and select the field of study. JournalFinder will search journals published by Elsevier to find an appropriate match for your manuscript.

JSTOR Labs Text Analyzer differs from the other automated tools in this section in that it is designed to find articles, rather than provide you with a list of journals. Just upload a document or type text in the search box. Text Analyzer will generate a list of published articles as results. But it will also give you a nice list of prioritized terms and identified terms. If you like, you can add identified terms to the list of prioritized terms, add your own terms to the list of prioritized terms, and even adjust the "weight" of prioritized terms and run the search again. The resulting list of articles can be used to choose a journal to which you can submit your manuscript.

JournalGuide's website states that JournalGuide is a free tool that helps researchers to evaluate scholarly journals. In addition to searching by journal name, category or publisher, authors can use the title and abstract of a paper to discover journals that have already published articles on similar topics.

Dimensions. Click in the Search box at the top of the page. The phrase "Abstract Search" will appear. Click on that link. Then you can type or paste your abstract in the box that appears (you can also do a basic keyword search).

So now that you've got several possible journals for submitting your article. How do you choose one? Consider what criteria are most important to you. Some questions you might ask are:

  • Is the journal indexed by established indexing sources?
  • Which journals are used by you or your colleagues in your research?
  • Do the professional organizations that you belong to publish any journals?
  • Are you interested in an international journal?
  • Multi-disciplinary or discipline-specific?
  • Are there certain journals that are looked on more favorably by your academic department or RTP committee members?
  • Are you looking for a journal that's published monthly, quarterly, annually?
  • Do you want to publish in an open-access journal? Are you required to comply with public access mandates due to funding requirements for your research?
  • Is impact factor or some other journal metric important?

How is a Journal Measured?

Journal Citation Reports provides data and metrics for journals included in the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) and Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), part of the Web of Science Core Collection. Journal Citation Reports is well known for its Journal Impact Factor, but it has recently started to include more article level data as well. You can search by entering a journal name, or you can browse by journal or category.

CiteScore from Scopus®. CiteScore calculates the average number of citations received in a calendar year by all items published in that journal in the preceding three years. The calendar year to which a serial title's issues are assigned is determined by their cover dates, and not the dates that the serial issues were made available online. You can search by Subject Area, Title, Publisher, or ISSN.

The Scimago Journal & Country Rank is a publicly available portal that includes the journals and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus® database (Elsevier B.V.). Journals can be grouped by subject area (27 major thematic areas), subject category (313 specific subject categories) or by country. Citation data is drawn from over 34,100 titles from more than 5,000 international publishers and country performance metrics from 239 countries worldwide.

Eigenfactor Metrics. In many research areas, articles are not frequently cited until several years after publication. Therefore, measures that only look at citations in the first two years after publication can be misleading. The Eigenfactor score and the Article Influence score is calculated based on the citations received over a five year period. The citation data used at Eigenfactor.org come from Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Information about subscription prices comes primarily from journalprices.com.

CWTS Journal Indicators provides free access to bibliometric indicators on scientific journals including:

  • The number of publications of a source in the past three years.
  • The impact per publication, calculated as the number of citations given in the present year to publications in the past three years divided by the total number of publications in the past three years.
  • The source normalized impact per publication (SNIP), calculated as the number of citations given in the present year to publications in the past three years divided by the total number of publications in the past three years.
  • The percentage of self citations of a source, calculated as the percentage of all citations given in the present year to publications in the past three years that originate from the source itself.

Should I submit my Manuscript to an Open Access journal?

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, it appears that 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, several funding sources, such as the NIH, 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. As a result of this, the costs associated with academic publishing may be shifting from consumers (i.e. subscription prices) to suppliers (i.e. article processing charges (APC). Various models for funding article processing charges exist including author funding, department or institutional funding, including article processing charges in grant requests, etc. Randall Library supports Open Access publishing and encourages authors to consider submitting their work to Open Access journals.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. DOAJ is independent. All funding is via donations, 40% of which comes from sponsors and 60% from members and publisher members. All DOAJ services are free of charge including being indexed in DOAJ. All data is freely available.

Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)'s website states that "OASPA is committed to developing and disseminating solutions that advance open access, preserve the integrity of scholarship, and promote best practice... Approved members have been through a rigorous application review process and adhere to OASPA's Code of Conduct."

You should also consider depositing a copy of your article into Seahawk DOCKS, UNCW's Institutional Repository, to help your article get even more exposure and potential citations. Read more about this in the Copyright section below.

A plug for Open Access journals:

What is a Predatory Publisher and How Do I Avoid Them?

With the advent of Article Processing Charges, it was inevitable that unscrupulous publishers would start coming out of the woodwork. These publishers may appear legitimate, but their main goal is to get researchers to submit their work (along with a processing charge), with the promise of expedited or even guaranteed publication. The peer-review process for these journals may be questionable, or even non-existent. They may also make false claims about their indexing and archiving practices (e.g. long term digital preservation). Because of this phenomenon, many people have made the mistake of equating open access with predatory. Open access does not equal predatory. So how can you tell if a journal is predatory? While there is no one, clear-cut resource, fortunately, there are several tools and techniques to help you steer clear of these publications. At the present time, these tools can be divided into three general categories known as: white lists, black lists, and check lists.

White Lists

A White List can be an index or simply a published list of journals that meet certain quality standards, excluding those journals considered "predatory." Ideally, such a list would be updated on a regular basis. The following tools for finding quality journals contain both open access and subscription based journals:

In the health sciences, checking Journals Currently Indexed in MEDLINE is a great place to start when checking to see if the journal that you've selected is reputable. MEDLINE, the principal online bibliographic citation database of the National Library of Medicine's PubMed system, uses a rigorous set of standards to determine whether or not to include a journal. Type the topic, journal title or abbreviation, or ISSN in the search box. If you get a list of results, use the Currently Indexed filter on the left side of the page to choose Journals Currently Indexed in MEDLINE. If you get a single result, the journal record will indicate the journal's Current Indexing Status. If you are checking to see if a journal is reputable and you find it indexed in MEDLINE, you need check no further.

In the Automated Tools section above (for choosing a journal that might be interested in your manuscript), we listed the Journal/Author Name Estimator (JANE). JANE is also a great resource for judging the quality of a journal as JANE now tags journals that are currently indexed in MEDLINE, and open access journals approved by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. DOAJ is independent. All funding is via donations, 40% of which comes from sponsors and 60% from members and publisher members. All DOAJ services are free of charge including being indexed in DOAJ. All data is freely available.

Cabell's Journalytics provides complete contact and publication information, multiple quality metrics, submission experience data, and peer review indicators for over 11,000 verified journals across 18 academic disciplines.

Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)'s website states that they "educate and support editors, publishers and those involved in publication ethics with the aim of moving the culture of publishing towards one where ethical practices becomes a normal part of the publishing culture." Members pledge to adhere to certain publishing standards. You can check to see if a publisher is a member by clicking on About COPE and then Find a Member.

Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)'s website states that "OASPA is committed to developing and disseminating solutions that advance open access, preserve the integrity of scholarship, and promote best practice... Approved members have been through a rigorous application review process and adhere to OASPA's Code of Conduct."

The Journals Online Project website states that they aim "to provide increased visibility, accessibility and quality of peer-reviewed journals published in developing countries so that the research outputs produced in these countries can be found, shared and used more effectively."

The MLA Directory of Periodicals offers detailed information on over 7,100 journals, with 4,400 currently indexed in the International Bibliography. The detailed entries include editorial contact information, as well as frequency, circulation, subscription prices and submission guidelines.

Directory of Nursing Journals goal is "to to help nurse authors find suitable and reputable journals in which to publish their work. We also intend this Directory to affirm, for readers and consumers of nursing literature, the credibility of literature sources used to guide practice, research, policy and education."

International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) is a trade organization of publishers which works to develop "standards and technology to ensure research is of high quality, trustworthy and easy to access."

Black Lists

There are a few resources that list journals that are considered to be "predatory," such as Cabell's Predatory Reports and Beall's List. We do not have a subscription to Cabell's Predatory Reports at the current time. Beall's List is no longer maintained and active, and so we have chosen not to include it here.

What if you are considering submitting your article to a journal and it is not listed in one of the "white lists" above? In the absence of "black lists," how can you decide whether or not to submit your article to that journal? The best thing to do is to make use of a "check list."

Check Lists

Sometimes, it may not be clear cut whether or not a journal is considered "predatory." In fact, the latitude between "legitimate" and "predatory" can, at times, be more accurately described as a sliding scale, rather than the difference between black and white. Keep in mind that no White List or Black List is comprehensive or a substitute for assessing individual journals.

When trying to decide whether to submit your article to a journal that is not on a list, here are some useful tools that will help:

Think. Check. Submit. Think. Check. Submit.'s website states that they help "researchers identify trusted journals for their research. Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international, cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications."

This online guide from Bernard Becker Medical Library lists Quality Indicators, Questionable Indicators, and things to look for if you receive a Solicitation to Publish.

Assessing Journal Legitimacy is an online guide from Strauss Health Sciences Library at the University of Colorado.


Under the copyright law, the creator of the original expression in a work is its author. The author is also the owner of copyright unless there is a written agreement by which the author assigns the copyright to another person or entity, such as a publisher. In cases of works made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered to be the author. - Copyright.gov

When it comes to retaining copyright for your work, it can be all, or nothing, or somewhere in between. Is the agreement you are signing a copyright transfer, a license to publish, or something else? With some contracts, authors sign over copyright for their article, and the authors are later surprised to find out that they can't even post the article to their own website for their students to access for class assignments. Did you know you can cross out words or add words on the contract? Did you know that you could submit an addendum along with the contract? As it says on the ACRL Scholarly Communications Toolkit: Author's Rights web page, "Publishers only need the right of first publication, not a wholesale transfer of copyright."

Georgetown University Library provides some good information about publication contracts at the link below.

This is also a good place to talk about "self-archiving." That is, placing a copy of your article somewhere other than the publishing journal's website, such as an Institutional Repository or a Subject/Discipline Repository. An Institutional Repository is a collection of material maintained by an institution such as a University. The material covers a variety of subject matter. An Institutional Repository may contain journal articles, images, motion pictures, etc. depending on the collection development policies of the repository. People contributing to an Institutional Repository all have some connection to that institution. UNCW's Institutional Repository is Seahawk DOCKS. A Subject/Discipline Repository contains material covering the same or a similar subject. The contributors can be affiliated with a variety of institutions. Research shows that depositing a copy of your article in a repository increases exposure to your work and thus, increases potential research impact. Randall Library encourages you to submit a copy of your article to Seahawk DOCKS.

Some publishers place restrictions on which versions of an article can be shared. Definitions of the three main versions of articles are as follows:

  • Pre-print is the article as it is submitted to the journal and before peer-review. It is typically in .doc format.
  • Post-print is the final version of the article as it is re-submitted to the journal after peer-review suggestions and/or corrections have been incorporated. It has been edited due to peer-review, however, it has not been copy-edited by the journal.
  • Publisher's version is the final version of the article as it will appear in the journal either in print or on the website. It has been copy-edited and formatted and is typically in pdf format.

How do you know what a publisher's policies are when it comes to author's rights and self-archiving? You can check each publisher's website. However, a good online tool for "summaries of self-archiving permissions and conditions of rights given to authors on a journal-by-journal basis" is SHERPA/RoMEO.

How Can I Share It? is another resource that links to multiple publishers' guidelines for sharing articles. Just click on the button below and scroll down to the Publisher Sharing Policies section.

Addenda for Publisher Contracts

Several organizations have created addenda that you can attach to the publishing contract when you submit it. These addenda protect your rights for future use of your work.

Their website states that SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) works to enable the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge, accelerate discovery, and increase the return on our investment in research and education.

Some additional sources for Author Addenda:

Is a Creative Commons License a Possibility?

If you are about to publish your work, you might want to see if it's possible to assign a Creative Commons license to your it. If you are not already familiar with them, as stated on their website, they are "free, easy-to-use copyright licenses" which "provide a simple, standardized way to give your permission to share and use your creative work - on conditions of your choice." If you are signing a contract with a publisher, they may not allow Creative Commons licensing, but it doesn't hurt to ask, if this is something you are interested in.

Did you follow the proper guidelines for reporting your research methods and findings? Not sure?

According to the Equator Network's website, "A reporting guideline is a simple, structured tool for health researchers to use while writing manuscripts. A reporting guideline provides a minimum list of information needed to ensure a manuscript can be, for example:

  • Understood by a reader,
  • Replicated by a researcher,
  • Used by a doctor to make a clinical decision, and
  • Included in a systematic review."

The Equator Network offers free as well as fee-based resources for writing and publishing in the Health Sciences. For a free, searchable database of Reporting Guidelines, click on the button below.

Take a look at the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) Research Reporting Guidelines and Initiatives Chart.

Are you required to submit your article to an Open-Access Repository due to requirements from the funding agency?

Did you receive funding for your research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)? Here are the NIH Public Access Policy details:

Do you need to submit a copy of your article to PubMed Central yourself, or will the publisher do it for you? Here is the Open Access Directory's Wiki on Publisher Policies on NIH funded authors:

Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR). According to their website, "OpenDOAR is the quality-assured global directory of academic open access repositories. It enables the identification, browsing and search for repositories, based on a range of features, such as location, software or type of material held."

Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR). ROAR is hosted at the University of Southampton, UK and is made possible by funding from the JISC. ROAR is part of the EPrints.org network.

Are you required to have a data management plan due to requirements from the funding agency?

Browse Data Sharing Requirements by Federal Agency. Click on the button below for a "community resource for tracking, comparing, and understanding both current and future U.S. federal funder research data sharing policies is a joint project of SPARC & Johns Hopkins University Libraries."

CENDI is a volunteer-powered membership organization that serves the federal information community - that is, all those who create, manage, aggregate, organize, and provide access to federally-funded data and publications resulting from the nation's $150 billion annual investment in federal R&D. Member organizations represent a cross-section of federal data and publication providers, including libraries, data centers, aggregators, information technology developers, and content management providers. CENDI's mission is to increase the impact of federally funded science and technology by improving the management and dissemination of data and information. CENDI provides a forum for sharing expertise, promoting best practices in information management, and developing and executing collaborative projects.

Carnegie Mellon University Libraries has Public Access mandates and policies information for US government funders as well as several US private funders.

University of California tool for creating your own Data Management Plan.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) Data Sharing Repositories.

Tracking your Research Impact

Research impact can be measured in several ways. Journal Impact Factor has been used as a way to gauge an author's research impact. Other numbers created to measure a journal's impact, such as CiteScore and Eigenfactor have also been used in this manner. Noting the inherent flaws in applying journal level metrics to an author, new metrics such as h-Index and g-Index were created. However, it has been argued that in some disciplines, Research Impact may occur in ways other than numbers of citations in academic journals. Mentions in academic networking sites, social media, blogs, etc. are some examples. Assigning a value to a researcher's work disseminated through means other than academic journals has been called Altmetrics, Recently, the use of Article Level Metrics (ALM) has been gaining traction. In fact, even Summon, the Randall Library discovery tool and the nursing database CINAHL now provide ALM information.

As Martin Fenner wrote: "Article-level metrics (ALMs) provide a wide range of metrics about the uptake of an individual journal article by the scientific community after publication. They include citations, usage statistics, discussions in online comments and social media, social bookmarking, and recommendations."

For an explanation of Article Level Metrics from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), click the button below.

If you publish in a Public Library of Science (PLOS) journal, PLOS can automatically generate your Article Level Metrics and also provide Data Visualization representations of the figures.

Altmetrics is a term for the "alternative metrics" discussed in this section of this webpage. Altmetric is the name of a company that provides tools for tracking altmetrics. To download a free Bookmarklet from Altmetric for Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, click on the button below. The Bookmarklet only works on PubMed, arXiv or pages containing a DOI with Google Scholar friendly citation metadata. Twitter mentions are only available for articles published since July 2011.

Dimensions is "a database that offers the most comprehensive collection of linked data in a single platform; from grants, publications, and clinical trials to patents and policy documents." Dimensions has a free module you can use to find article level metrics on a single publication or the various publications of a specific author.

iCite is a tool to access a dashboard of bibliometrics for papers associated with a portfolio. Relative Citation Ratio (RCR), an alternative measure of article influence developed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), represents a citation-based measure of scientific influence. iCite can be used to calculate RCRs for articles in PubMed. Users type in a PubMed query or upload the PubMed IDs of articles of interest. iCite has three modules: Influence, Translation, and Open Citations. Click Help in the upper right corner for the iCite User Guide.

Our-research.org is a collection of open source, open data tools including a couple that can be used for demonstrating Research Impact and Altmetrics.

The future of Academic Publishing?

There was a major shake-up in 2019 in the world of academic publishing when Elsevier and the University of California were unable to come to an agreement in their contract negotiations. In March of 2019, Elaine Westbrooks, Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian, UNC Chapel Hill issued a statement in support of the University of California. There's no doubt that the symbiotic relationship between publishers and academia is changing. The financial model that had been established and followed for so many years is no longer sustainable. Open Access journals, Cascading journals, Mirror journals, Hybrid journals all may have a place when the dust settles. With the omnipresent internet and a plethora of online resources, academic publishers no longer own the only printing presses. It's not certain what the publishing model of the future is going to be. What is clear, is that academic publishers will need to adapt in order to remain relevant.


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