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Detail from Sculling on the Potomac by J. Love, 1888. From the University Art CollectionBooth Family Center for Special Collections

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Journal Quality

Introduction

With the ease and popularity of open access publishing, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of journals published, many of which are focused on the fields of science, technology, engineering, and medicine. Some of these journals have been labeled “fake” or “predatory,” and authors and researchers will want to avoid using these publications for research or publication.

The Future of Publishing (March 2013) in Nature reports on many of the quality issues surrounding open access publishing. The Publication Rat Race: Who Will Bell the Cat? (2013) explains why there is an explosion of “fake” journals appearing in India. 'Predatory’ Open Access: A Longitudinal Study of Article Volumes and Market Characteristics (October 2015) examines the characteristics of journals on Beall's List and concludes that predatry open access issues are "highly contained to just a few countries, where the academic evaluation practices strongly favor international publication, but without further quality checks."

Quality, however, is not just an issue for "predatory" or "fake" journals. In the last few years, there have been hundreds of articles retracted by established scholarly publishers:

Evaluation Criteria

Assessing the quality of a journal is important for researchers, scholars, and students in two respects:

    • if you are citing an article, you want to be sure it is reliable and authoritative
    • if you are publishing in a journal, you want to be sure it is reputable and will provide appropriate publishing services, including peer review

If you are unsure about whether to cite to or publish in a particular journal, use the evaluate criteria below to help determine its quality.

Check out the journal's website

    • Are editors listed? Are their institutions listed?
    • If you Google the editors, do you find them? If so, are they at the listed institution? Do they hold an appropriate degree for their position on the editorial board?
    • Are articles peer reviewed?
    • Is the language used on the website grammatical?
    • Are author fees and article processing charges clearly listed?
    • Is there contact information for the journal, publisher, and/or editors?
    • Does the "look and feel" of the website seem genuine?

Read a selection of articles that have already been published

    • Who are the authors publishing in this journal?
    • What is the quality of the published articles?
    • if the quality of the website is low, but the articles appear to be good, could they be plagiarized?
    • Is the scope so broad that it would be difficult or impossible to find peer reviewers?

If you are unsure about the quality or legitimacy of a journal or publisher, contact the editor with your concerns.