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Evaluating Publishers

You want to build your academic reputation, but how do you know to what journals or academic presses you should submit your work? You'll want to consider norms in your field, recommendations from peers or advisors, and the extent of your desire for open access.

We've assembled some guidelines.

Evaluating Journals

With journal publishing, you will often be making choices based on the "impact" of various journals – meaning how those journals are recognized and perceived in the scholarly community, the frequency of citation of articles from those journals, and the like. For more discussion of the various statistical measures of impact visit OU Libraries Research Impact Metrics guide.

But you should also consider impact in terms of openness. That is: Who can access the scholarship being published by that journal? Is it open for reading by all, or confined to only those institutions able to pay?

Gauging Journal Subject Matter Fit and Impact

If you're unfamiliar with the journals in your field, there are comparison tools that can help with the evaluation process:


  • Journal Citation Reports: JCR provides citation data for journals across nearly two hundred subject categories. You can browse by subject category or by known title. JCR enables you to identify journals with high impact factors, understand the ranking of journals within a subject category, and more. 
  • Offers valuable information about the Eigenfactor Score and the Article Influence Score for various journals. You can also explore the cost effectiveness of journals for both subscription journals (which search ranks subscription-based journals according to the value-per-dollar that they provide) and open access journals (which compares the article-processing fees charged by open access journals).
  • CiteScore: Identify and compare journal impact metrics across a wide range of journal titles and disciplines.
  • UlrichsWeb: Provides key information about journals' publishing frequency, location, audience, peer review status and more.


Evaluating Open Access Journals

If you're interested in open access publishing, but unfamiliar with a particular OA journal you've come across, you can also find out more about it by checking these additional sites:

  • Is the journal included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? DOAJ is comprehensive, "community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals." To be included, journals must be peer-reviewed or employ editorial quality control. This also means the journals do not employ deceptive marketing practices to solicit papers to get the article processing charge that authors may pay.
  • Is the publisher a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)? 
  • Has the publication been evaluated by scholars in the Quality Open Access Market?
  • The Scholarly Communication Toolkit page on Evaluating Journals also has tremendous information about how to select open access journals for publication.

Concerned About Deception?

If you've checked the above sources, but still have questions about the legitimacy of a journal solicitation you've received, there are several ways you can screen for propriety.

  • Are you getting confusing spam? If you've been receiving unsolicited e-mails from journals that are not indexed in the above reputable sources, this may be an indication of deceptive practices. But it could also mean the journal is new and hasn't established a track record yet.
  • Have you checked for deceptive characteristics?  Researchers in 2017 identified various characteristics of deceptive journals. They went on to summarize these as:
    • low article-processing fees (less than US $150)
    • spelling and grammar errors on the website
    • an overly broad scope
    • language that targets authors rather than readers
    • promises of rapid publication
    • a lack of information about retraction policies, manuscript handling, or digital preservation
    • manuscript submissions by e-mail
    • the inclusion of distorted images


Have you done a "Think, Check, Submit?, a campaign from many leading open access publishers, also helps researchers identify trusted journals for their research by offering them a simple checklist to assess journal or publisher credentials. This is another great way to evaluate journal quality and spot unscrupulous activity.  In addition to their checklist, check out their Think, Check, Submit video:

Think. Check. Submit. from Think. Check. Submit. on Vimeo.

Lists of Predatory Publishers

There are several so-called lists of predatory publishers, but most are outdated or problematic. A serious issue with these lists is that the criteria by which journals and publishers are assessed often isn't made public. And even when it is many of the "listkeepers" view publishers and journals with a western bias. Publishers in other countries may have different norms. These norms don't necessarily make the publishers predatory or questionable; it makes them non-western. Sometimes these lists perpetuate a colonial attitude about publishing, including who is "allowed" to publish.

Instead of relying on lists, which are subject to error, bias, and become outdated, we recommend thinking critically about the journal in which you're going to publish and using the "Think, Check, Submit" system above.  

And remember, we can help! If you're still not sure about a journal (or a conference or an invitation to be on an editorial board), contact your liaison librarian.

Evaluating Academic Presses

Choosing a book publisher can be daunting, especially if you are looking to be published for the first time. The most useful advice and guidance will likely come from peers, colleagues, and academic advisors familiar with publishing in your discipline. They'll be most knowledgeable about the logistics, publishing terms, marketing efforts, and prestige of particular presses. Another way to get started is to consult resources that reveal various presses' goals, target audiences, and interests. Some of the best resources for that are the publishers' catalogs – that is, inventories and descriptions of the books they've already published.

  • The Association of University Presses (AUP) has a list of member university presses. By going to the websites of particular publishers, you can find these catalogs and see exactly what the press is publishing in your discipline.
  • Not sure which publishers' websites to look at? AUP also has a Subject Area Grid that identifies the interest areas of member publishers.


Explore Presses with Open Access Programs

Increasingly, presses offer open access book publishing. Open access books have tremendous potential to increase your readership and impact, while also still fostering print sales for readers who prefer it. They also can facilitate advanced media innovation in the publishing process.  

With open access books, as with some open access journals, there may be an author fee assessed as a cost recovery mechanism for the press – given that they may sell fewer print copies to libraries since the book will be made available openly online. OU Libraries Open Access Fund subsidizes such fees! Check out the Open Access Books section of our Research Publication Subvention Funding page for details.

The OAPEN Open Books Toolkit provides a guide to finding open access book publishers and how to choose a publisher for an open access book. 

Other Resources

The Chronicle of Higher Education regularly publishes articles with helpful advice on how to get published, how to approach publishers, etc. Consider setting up an alert for new content. 

Finally, there's some networking you could do. Anali Perry of Arizona State University, on the Select a Venue page of her Getting Published guide, offers some great advice for outreach that can lead to a more streamlined press selection process. 

As she explains:


If you're attending conferences, you can set up meetings with editors to review a book idea and discuss whether this might be of interest. Another option is to contact editors directly with book ideas, written as a long essay (in the style of the press's book catalog) stating the problem, what are you proposing, and how it is yours. Do this before writing the entire book - it's better to work with an editor while you're writing the book, not after. You can also be in contact with more than one publisher until you decide to accept an offer - just be honest that you're investigating multiple options.

You can also check out this video from the AUP. In 2015, AUP convened a virtual panel to "take the scary out of scholarly publishing." Their experts discussed tips and strategies for working with scholarly presses throughout the publishing process. 



Contact your liaison librarian or the OU Libraries Scholarly Communication Unit to set up a consultation.  


Some content on this page was derived from University of California - Berkeley and used under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license. Content on this page, unless otherwise noted, is licensed CC BY-NC 4.0.