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Academic Coaching & Writing

V. Selecting a Journal Based on its Prestige

May 30, 2019 by Dr Sally

The prestige of a journal may carry a different weight depending on where you are in your career, the nature of your publication, and the influence a particular journal has on the academic community within your field. Measuring the quality of a journal entails looking at its impact factor, its visibility and accessibility to your audience, and whether it has a high or low acceptance rate.

Impact Factor

The impact or prestigiousness of a journal is a reflection of the perceived quality of that particular journal, how it is regarded by the discipline, how widely it is read and respected by scholars in the field. This factor may be important if you are seeking tenure or seeking a new position, as often this prestige is taken to reflect the quality of your own work.

Although there are numerous ways to measure a journal’s impact, most rely on citation analysis—the number of times the average article in a journal is mentioned by other authors. Generally, your university provides access to a number of tools such as Web of Science, Scopus, and Google Scholar, which all provide citation analysis. However, since no single tool includes every publication, you may need to look in more than one database to find a quantitative measure of a journal’s impact.

A journal’s website will usually reveal the journal’s impact factor. If your university provides access, Journal Citation Reports is another good place to begin looking for a journal’s impact. It provides citation analysis for ranking over 12,000 journals in the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities. The absence of an impact factor does not necessarily equate to the journal not being recognized in one’s field, as it could be a more recent journal. However, journals with an impact factor are usually more likely to be familiar to scholars in one’s field and publishing in such a journal may be important to you in your career goals, especially if you are going up for tenure and/or promotion. If your career goals are more related to reaching an audience of practitioners, the journal’s impact factor may not be of such concern.

If a journal’s impact is important for your publication goals, look at the journals in your field to determine whether an individual journal ranks near the top (high), in the middle (med), or near the bottom (low). If you need additional guidance on this, consult with colleagues in your field.

Visibility and Accessibility

Another factor to consider in reaching your audience is the journal’s visibility. When considering a journal’s visibility, look for its inclusion in databases and its ease of access. Where a journal is listed is important because it is where your article has a higher potential of being found. For example, if the journal is listed in the ERIC database, and this database is used quite often by others in your field, then your work will most likely be easily accessed by your intended audience. If it is listed in a different database that is seldom searched for by scholars in your field, your article may not be easily found or accessed.

Open access allows for a public distribution of your work, which would add to its visibility. If the journal you are considering does offer open access, are there any additional charges for this? In many cases, journals require that authors contribute to this access by paying a certain amount of money. If you don’t mind spending some money to publish your work widely and if open distribution is what you would prefer, then this is something to consider. But not going for open access does not equate to your article not being read. Indeed, scholars in your field will most likely have access to the journal via their university. In other words, open access is truly an option, and deciding not to pursue open access will most likely not affect the audience that is interested in this topic and in your paper. Note also that some journals require publication costs regardless of access. Once again, you would need to decide whether this aligns with your publication goals.

Acceptance Rate

Finally, the acceptance rate of the journal may be important if you are seeking tenure as it often speaks to the prestige of the journal. How high or low is the acceptance rate? If the journal has a low acceptance rate and your article is accepted, this may be taken to reflect the quality of your work for those who review your tenure file. A low acceptance rate may also mean that you may not reach publication the first time around. So, if you are pressed for time, you may want to submit your article to a journal that has a higher acceptance rate. However, if you can, I would highly recommend submitting to the journal with a high rating but low acceptance rate since you could gain the prestige if you get published there but, if not, you would likely receive useful feedback for you to revise and resubmit your article somewhere else. In the end, the decision of whether to select a journal with a low acceptance rate or not will come down to your career goals for this publication.

Activity 5: Assessing Potential Journals for Prestige Factors

Use the Activity 5 table to list only those journals you retained from the previous table and assess each of these journals for impact factor, visibility, and acceptance rate. As before, either create your own table on line or print out the page displaying the table.  

Journal Name. List each potential journal.

Impact Factor. Indicate the rating of Low, Med. or High in the Impact Factor column. If the impact factor is not mentioned in the journal author guidelines, you may need to search online for Journal Citation Reports for journals in the sciences, technology, and social sciences. Look at the journals in your field to determine whether an individual journal ranks near the top (high), in the middle (med), or near the bottom (low).

Visibility & Accessibility. After determining where each journal you retained from the Activity 4 table is listed and how easy or difficult it would be for your intended audience to find it, indicate on this table whether a journal’s visibility and accessibility is high, medium or low.

Acceptance Rate. Review the author guidelines for each journal to see if there is any indication of its acceptance rate. If not, query colleagues or the editor. If the percentage is over 66, the acceptance rate is considered high. If the percentage is between 33 and 66, the acceptance rate is considered medium, and if the percentage is below 33, the acceptance rate is considered low. Indicate High, Med, or Low in the Acceptance Rate column.

Keep on List. As you have done before, indicate which of the journals you want to retain on your list as you move on to the next step.

Activity 5: Prestige Factors

Journal Name

Impact Factor
(High, Med, Low)

Visibility & Accessibility
(High, Med, Low)

Acceptance Rate
(High, Med, Low)

Keep on List?
(Yes, No)


























You may have noticed, as you completed this activity, that there may be no journal that meets all of your criteria. Keep in mind that selecting a journal is an iterative process. You may need to adjust your work to any journal you select so that it can meet your intended goals. In other words, you may have to make some compromises. However, you can reach an informed decision and compromise in an area that affects you the least.

In the next blog post, you will have an opportunity to compare the characteristics of the potential journals you have retained on your list to come to a closer determination of which journal best fits your publication requirements.

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