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Academic Coaching & Writing

VIII. Selecting a Journal

Jun 19, 2012 by Amy Kiste Nyberg

In the previous blog entry in this series, you learned about the bullets point method for dividing your dissertation into articles and outlining manuscripts. This entry covers the important topic of selecting the journal to which you want to submit your article.

Pick a journal based on how well your research “fits” the journal. As a dissertator, you no doubt spent a lot of time tracking down articles in academic journals related to your field, so you will have a pretty good idea of which journals in your discipline will be most interested in your research.

Visiting a journal’s website yields instructive information about the journal. For example, the Taylor & Francis Group, which publishes a number of academic journals, includes a section titled “Aim & Scope” for each of its journals. This information is crucial so that you do not waste your time (or the journal editor’s time) by sending a manuscript that clearly is not a match for the journal.

If your research is appropriate for several journals, use the following criteria to choose which journal is best:

  • Reputation in your discipline. One or more journals may be included in the “top tier” for publication in your field. These journals are usually the best-known and mostly highly regarded by scholars in your field, and likely the most selective. If you are not sure which journals are top tier, check with tenured faculty in your discipline (including your dissertation adviser) for guidance. Some universities compile a ranked list of journals in different academic disciplines to provide tenure-track faculty with what publications will carry the most weight during the tenure review.
  • Acceptance rate. Journals, like academic conferences, vary on how selective they are. A journal with a very low acceptance rate--say an acceptance rate of 10% of the manuscripts submitted--is more competitive than a journal with a 40% acceptance rate. Set your sights high, but also be realistic. It is better to have a publication in a second-tier journal than only rejection letters from top-tier journals.
  • Backlog. Some journals accept so many manuscripts that they sit on completed articles for a year or two before they publish them. When you add the time it takes for peer review and revisions, it may be three or four years before your article is published. When this is the case, write “accepted for publication” or “in press” in the list of publications on your vitae.
  • Citation ranking. Through the Internet, you can track the number of times that articles from a particular journal have been cited in other’s research. The more times the journal is cited, the better its reputation in the field. Once you are published, tracking how often your own work is cited, and who is citing your work, is a good measure of the esteem in which your scholarship is held.
  • Databases that index the journal. If the journal you are considering is not indexed in the most commonly used electronic database(s) in your field, this may be a red flag in terms of the journal’s reputation and accessibility. You want to ensure that your research is readily available to other scholars.

If you are still unsure about which journals to send your work, ask your dissertation adviser or one of yours mentors for guidance.

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