In ‘Build your own publishing strategy’ I wrote about ways to narrow down the list of potential journals to publish in, and the need to get more information about these journals. And I am not only talking about author guidelines, although they will play an important part. The journals’ websites offers a lot more information you should take into account to make an informed decision
And this is what today’s post is about. It means a bit of homework before you actually start writing, but in my opinion it is definitely worth the effort. I am sure there are many ways to approach this, but this is what I would suggest you do. Having identified all the journals that might be of interest start to draw a portrait of each one and try to understand them as well as you can. Work on a one-page sketch, covering the following aspects:
Aim & scope
The first thing to check and to write down is the journal’s aim and scope section. This is about the journal’s vision and mission, so to speak, and it will give you the first and most important indication of what sort of articles they expect. So it is important to ask yourself if your work is covered by the journal. Do the guidelines seem sympathetic to the work you do? Is the specific empirical approach you are targeting appreciated?
This is something that is often stated explicitly in the aim and scope section. But given the tension between disciplinary journals and the interdisciplinary subject area that is sustainability, it might be worth double- checking. Use the search options to check for keywords for your article: are similar topics covered in previous issues of the journal? Of course, you could argue that you want to be the first to introduce a topic to the journal, but maybe there is a reason why no one has done so before.
Instructions for authors
Next are the instructions for authors. Here you will find details about how to submit your paper. The section contains all necessary information about templates (if available), how to reference and what sort of articles are considered. So it is crucial that you check these instructions very carefully. Often you will find templates or specific guidelines to download – make sure you actually go through them!
Another useful source is the list of the editorial board. This will give you an important idea of several things. Are there any colleagues I have already worked with or know? Are there any academics from my institution? What disciplines are covered on the board? What about researchers from my country or region? First of all, if you find any academics you know, this is a chance to contact them with your publication idea or abstract to get some feedback on whether the journal would be right for you. Furthermore, if academics from your field happen to be members of the board, you can take this as an indication that your area of expertise is appreciated.
Abstracting/indexing and impact factor
You will also find a list of databases in which the journals’ issues are listed. Here you should check for good coverage so your paper can easily be found once it is published. If the journal is covered by Web of Science you will also find an impact factor, which will help you judge the reputation of the journal. Finally, I suggest making a note of the ranking in the ‘Excellence in Research for Australia’ initiative and the ERIH list of the European Science Foundation.
Time from submission to publication
Although this is not specifically stated, you should be able to work this out anyway. If you check a number of papers in some of the more recent issues of the journal you will find information about when the article was handed in, when a revised version was handed in and when it was finally published. This will tell you how fast the review process and the final publication are. The difference between two journals might be something between three and 12 months and could be crucial.
Finally, download articles which seem to model a specific approach. Try to identify one with quantitative empirical work, one with a qualitative approach and one with a more theoretical/conceptual focus. Download these articles and go through them systematically: is there a specific structure that seems to be typical for the journal? what sort of references are used?
If you collect and compile this information about the journals which are most important to you, you will be able to build up a very useful source for future publishing decisions. It certainly takes some time to get all this information, but you will be able to use it and add to it over the years, and I have found it increasingly valuable. I started using Microsoft’s OneNote for this, as it allowed me to collect all sorts of information from websites, pdfs and other sources and to make them searchable. But I am sure there are other, more sophisticated, ways to achieve this end. Anyway, I hope you give it a try. And if you come up with a different, even better, approach, or if I have missed something important, please tell me!