Where to send your manuscript?
Selection of an appropriate journal and publication type is critical: get it right and you instantly increase your chances of successful publication and regular citation. Conversely, sending a manuscript to an inappropriate journal is a frequent cause of rejection.
The aims and scope of the journal, the journal’s target audience and recent publication history, the significance and broadness of appeal of the findings described in your manuscript, and the type of study performed should all be considered before selecting your target journal.
Narrow your focus
Start by considering what the main focus of your paper is, and therefore, who you would expect to want to read it. This should have become clear while writing the paper, particularly the discussion section.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Is there a clinical focus or do you describe basic science findings?
- Are the findings of relevance to a broad cross-section of the scientific community or will they only appear to researchers in a specialist field?
- Are the findings preliminary, with more work required to make an irrefutable and comprehensive story, or do you have multiple types of complementary data to support your hypothesis?
- Do you need to publish right away, or can you delay publication while collecting more data to try for a journal with a higher impact factor?
By asking yourself these questions, among others, you will be able to build up a picture of the type of journal you should be targeting.
Generate a short-list
An immediate source of potential target journals is in your own paper’s reference list. Identify similar or related studies and the journals they were published in. Some journals will appear more than once, and these are likely candidates. Another way to identify candidate journals is performing keyword searches in literature databases such as Medline and PubMed. Again, journals that appear repeatedly are potentially suitable.
Of course, journals that haven’t previously published in the same area of research might equally be interested in your findings. The best way to identify these is to search or browse your library’s journal shelves, Thomson ISI databases (including the Science Citation Index), or the websites of major publishers (see below, but note that these are just a few of many publishers of academic journals). You should be able to recognize journals that might be appropriate based on your answers to the questions above.
Now that you have a short-list of possible target journals and a clear picture of the type of journal your study would be suitable for, you need to merge the two to see where they correspond.
Journal websites generally contain an ‘aims and scope’ section and occasionally describe their target audience. Some factors to be considered are:
- Impact factor- If you require publication in a journal with an impact factor above a certain level, you can instantly rule out any with impact factors lower than that.
- Publication types- What kind of articles are published? Original research, case studies, reviews?
- Publication frequency- Check the journal's TOC for the number of monthly/weekly articles; also look at the journal's OnlineFirst section: how often are articles appearing?
- Time from acceptance to publication- If you require rapid publication, you should specifically look for journals that offer fast response times and short periods from acceptance to publication.
- Rejection rates- Some journals are quite candid in publishing this data.
- Publication charges- If you are on a tight budget you may need to rule out open access journals or journals that have high publication charges. Some journals have high charges for color figures, but B/W are no charge. Read the guidelines carefully.
Study the journal websites closely and consider why the editors and readers of each would be interested in your findings. As well as giving you an angle for the approach in your cover letter, this will help you decide which of the remaining journals in your short-list is the most relevant platform from which to disseminate your findings.
When your short-list has been reduced to two or three journals on the basis of the above criteria, you should rank them as first, second and third choices based on your particular requirements. Then you are ready to write your cover letter and submit your manuscript!