Researching Your Journal of Interest (Before Submitting Your Paper)
Even if your research is of high standard and fills a knowledge gap, getting it published is not a given. There are a few hurdles standing in your way, and some of these can be negated by allowing some time to study your target journal. This post describes some areas you should cover when looking through journals and gives suggestions that might improve your chances of success.
Read about the journal’s aim and scope
Most journals clearly describe what they are about on their website. Usually, information is given about their scope, aim and interest. Subjects covered by the journal are frequently named as well. Make sure you read this part carefully and assess your work against the flavor of the journal. The most common reason for editors to reject a submission (without even passing it on for a review) is a mismatch between the journal’s area of interest and the article’s topic. If, for example, the journal focuses on the psychological and social aspects of ageing and your research covers physical exercise in old age, you might want to choose a journal that has a more pronounced physical health aspect to it (or incurring a greater risk of being rejected).
Look at the journal’s table of contents
If, after reading up on the journal’s information, you are still uncertain whether your work would fit, you can have a look at a current edition’s table of contents and browse through some of the recent articles. This not only gives you further insight into the journal’s published topics, it can also help you assess the quality and characteristics of the journal. For instance, you might notice that there is a preference for certain types of research. Some journals also come with a search option, so you can look for keywords that relate to your article and see if the journal has already published material that relates to you.
Think about the journal’s readership
Most journals’ website also gives a brief description of their audience and the readers’ professional background, which provides insight to the journal’s scope.
- Do you think that the journal’s target audience would be interested in your area of research?
- Does your research cover some of the current trends that these readers might be pursuing themselves, therefore wanting to read more about?
If you are confident the answer to these two questions is yes, then the journal you are researching is probably well-suited for your topic. It can also be helpful to look at the editorial board and see if any of the names are familiar to you in the context of your study (this could also suggest you have come to the right place).
What about the reviewers?
In scientific journals, all articles undergo a rigorous peer-review process before they are accepted (or rejected). As mentioned earlier, the editor performs the initial screen after which the articles are forwarded to (at least two) reviewers. The review process is usually double-blind, which means that you don’t know who reviewed your paper and the reviewers does not know who wrote the article they are reviewing (the articles are anonymized). This ensures the review process is as unbiased as possible.
However, some journals these days do ask you to recommend potential reviewers for your article, who are expected to be scholars with an expertise in your topic. Be prepared for this question and think of some people who would be appropriate for the task (and willing to do it). There are at least two ways of going about this. You can choose reviewers you are familiar with and you think would support your submission. Alternatively, you could choose reviewers who you think are well placed to enhance your paper with their honest (and possibly brutal) comments. Your approach also depends on your personal and professional goals. For example, if you are on a tight deadline, you might want to pick more amicable reviewers who you personally know (although this could be considered a tad unethical, especially if they are aware that the article is yours).
What if you don’t know any reviewers?
The chances are that as a new researcher you are not that connected in the field yet, so you might struggle coming up with names (and some journals insist on providing them during their electronic submission process). The reviewers can sometimes be authors who have previously published in the journal (you are submitting). You could start by searching for articles on your topic that have been published by the journal in the past, and recommending the authors you find who have written on similar topics as your reviewers. Ultimately, the editor has the liberty to decide on reviewers, so you can never really tell who will be assessing your work.
To sum it up, take some time to look through your journal(s) of interest and decide whether your article matches in scope, general direction and editorial policies. Also, look through what has been previously published and who has been published. This should give you a good idea if the journal you chose (to ultimately submit to) is indeed the right one for you.