written by Dr. Smith, ScienceDocs Psychology Editor
One issue that many researchers, particularly those early in their careers, struggle with is where to publish research. Failing to give sufficient thought to this issue will set researchers up for disappointment, either leading to a string of rejection letters or (even worse), publishing their work in outlets that they later realise are unsuitable. In this article I offer some thoughts on this issue from my experiences as an author and journal Associate Editor, and suggest guidelines that may be of help to aspiring researchers.
My first piece of advice is to consider possible outlets as early as possible in the research process. It is a mistake to leave this decision until after you have completed a research project. When planning a project, think about who ultimately will need to know about your findings, and consider possible outlets accordingly. Here are some issues to consider:
*Aims and scope of the journal: I am constantly surprised at the number of submissions I see that do not align with the aims and scope of the journal. Please make sure to read the mission statement of the target journal and make sure that it is appropriate for the work. For example, just because you have performed an organizational psychology study, choosing any organizational psychology journal with strong metrics is unwise. You would be better advised to submit to a journal that fits well with the aims and scope of the study than try to fit your study to a less suitable outlet. In my editing experience, the latter is surprisingly common, for example submitting a highly theoretical study to a more applied journal, and having to go through some scientific gymnastics to try to come up with an applied angle to justify the submission. This is a common reason for rejection. Often the obvious answer is the correct one in terms of which journal provides the best fit.
*Readership: please make sure that the information you have discovered is going to be accessible by the people who can most benefit from seeing it. There is little point in having a paper published in a very prestigious journal if none of the people who really need to know about your findings are likely to read the journal. Even in this modern world of automated journal alerts and easy internet searches, it makes sense to make your work as visible as possible to the key people in your field. And journal editors are not likely to want to publish papers whose key readership lies outside of their journal’s specialism: take it from me as an editor!
*Professional journals, popular magazines and websites: Do not ignore these. Even if, as a scientist, peer-reviewed journals are the first port of call for disseminating your findings, sometimes it might be more important to get findings out into the ‘real world’ when they can be of great practical use than wait to go through the lengthy journal publication process. Alternatively, publishing lay-friendly summaries of your work in professional journals, popular magazines and websites should be considered alongside scientific journals, so the public (who, after all, pay for much scientific work) can find out about what you are doing and possibly benefit from it. Blogs and social media can be helpful for dissemination too.
*Journal metrics: while taking the first three issues I have raised into account, it makes sense to publish research in the most prestigious outlet available. There are many ways of evaluating this, the most popular traditionally being the journal’s impact factor (IF). This has well-publicised limitations, so should only be considered in conjunction with other considerations such as the journal’s word-of-mouth reputation amongst peers. However, other metrics that have been developed to try to overcome some of the limitations of the IF should be considered too, such as Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP), SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) and Impact per Publication (IPP). It is beyond the scope of this brief blog to explore the advantages and disadvantages of such measures but it is worth considering these in the round when deciding upon the most suitable journal.
I would strongly advise aspiring researchers to consider all the factors above when deciding where to publish research. As always, you will learn through experience (primarily your mistakes), which hopefully over time will improve both your ‘hit rate’ and the quality of journals that you publish in. And one final piece of advice is to publish in a variety of journals: this will avoid you looking one-dimensional in terms of your research expertise and broaden your readership, which is never a bad thing for a scientist. Good luck with your future submissions!
Learn more about Psychology Editor Dr. Smith