Selecting the proper journal

A major source of delay in publishing research is submitting your manuscript to the wrong journal. Many strategies can be implemented to optimize the chances of publishing your manuscript. Audience, exposure, focus, language, reputation, and time to print are all critical factors in selecting the journal in which to present your findings. The journal selection process should begin BEFORE starting the writing process. Selecting the journal before writing the manuscript will help you to tailor the manuscript to the scope and audience of the journal. Further, knowing the requirements of the journal beforehand, such as space limitations, citation formatting, and allowed abbreviations, will save you time and ensure that you have written a manuscript that is appropriate for the journal you select and therefore more likely to be selected for peer review. Six points to consider when selecting a journal are….

Audience and Journal Scope: Who is your target audience? Who will find your results most interesting? Are your findings clinically applicable? Are they theoretical? Are you introducing a new technique that may be useful to a broad audience of scientists from different fields or to a very narrow audience? Do your findings address a specific critical question in your field or are they broadly applicable? The answers to these questions should critically guide your choice in journals. Select several candidate journals and carefully read their scope (found in the Instruction to Authors) to review the types of articles that they publish.

Journal Requirements: Sometimes, more practical considerations dictate journal choice. Requirements for article length, number of figures, number of references, etc., vary by journal. During the journal selection process, read the Instructions to Authors/Guide for Authors to determine the limitations of the journal. A very large and complex study may not be suitable for a journal that only allows 5 figures. A thorough literature review may not be possible when only 30 references are allowed. Some journals rarely accept case reports. Reading the Instructions/Guide to Authors will help you narrow down the selection of journals.

Language: In what language should you publish? Although the dominant language of science is English, you may have findings that are more pertinent to a specific region and therefore wish to publish in that language.

Acceptance Rate: What is the percentage of submitted manuscripts that are published by the journal? While this should not be your deciding factor, it is an important consideration. Key to getting your findings published in top-tier journals, such as Science, Nature, NEJM, PNAS, and JACS is ensuring that your manuscript strictly adheres to the journal scope and guidelines. Craft a carefully worded cover letter and, when possible, make a presubmission inquiry to the managing editor to determine if your manuscript is appropriate for the journal.

Time to Publication: Some journals take much longer than others to go from submission to publication. Is rapid dissemination of your findings important to you? Many journals indicate submission and publication dates. If not, feel free to ask the editor about the journal's current time to publication.

Impact Factor: What is the journal's impact factor and is it really important? In theory, the impact factor indicates how important that journal is to its field. The impact factor is calculated each year by Thomson Scientific. The actual value of the impact factor is controversial and impact factor alone should not be the basis of your decision to submit a manuscript to a particular journal. Several other measures (e.g., PageRank, Eigenfactor, etc.) are also used to rank the influence of a journal on its field. When combined, these measures appear to track the influence of each journal and may be helpful for selecting the journal that is most appropriate for your manuscript. It is important to note, however, that decisions about promotion and tenure may be influenced by impact factor, particularly in Japan and Europe.

Careful consideration of the journal to which you submit your manuscript is important to minimize the time spent re-writing, reformatting, and re-submitting manuscripts to a second or even third journal.