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Evaluating Journal Quality — Suggestions for Conducting Evaluations

A guide to the tools and methods for evaluating the quality of scholarly journals. Intended for authors, editors and reviewers.

Instructions On How To Use These Evaluation Tools

Following are suggestions on how to determine an open access journal’s basic solidity and dependability. This guide does not address subject suitability concerns, as those vary widely for each individual. We offer guidance on where to look for authoritative indicators about a journal’s basic trustworthiness. We incorporate several sources in this set of instructions (cited at the bottom of the document.)

An important point to make is that when we talk about determining journal quality in this context we are not talking about a journal's subject relevance to your research nor a journal's cache and prestige within a certain research discipline (although the metrics do get at that concept somewhat.) We are instead establishing basic editorial and publishing credibility, that the journal is dependable and trustworthy within academic publishing standards. In other words, that it is not a fly-by-night entity created solely for profit seeking or that it is not ineptly created and managed.

Gold Star Sources

Check these highly credible and prestigious sources for inclusion of your journal title. The presence of your journal as a member of these entities gives a strong indication of journal credibility because these sources all require detailed ethical standards and quality best practices for editors and publishers.

The first three sources are found in the Standards page and the last source is found in the Directories page.

Silver Star Sources

A lesser but still useful option is to check for journal title inclusion in these five sources, which confirm at least a minimum of standards and quality. These provide journal metrics sources which offer specific paths for more detailed analysis of journal qualities.

The first source is found on the Directories page. The last four sources are found on the Metrics page.

Bronze Star Source

Inclusion in this source meets a minimum level of recognition for the existence of a journal and does not actually imply much credibility. However it is a source of VERY useful information about the details of a journal which will help in answering some of the positive and negative journal questions in the next section.

This source is found on the Directories page.

Questions To Answer About Your Journal

Answer as many of these questions as you can about your journal. Most can be found on the journal website, the publisher website or in Ulrich's Periodicals Directory. A list of both positive and negative questions are offered.

 

Positive Questions help to establish the credibility and authority of a journal. "Yes" answers to positive questions are standard outcomes for scholarly journals. Any question to which you cannot answer "yes" may be reason to investigate further.

Negative questions help to identify gaps in a journal's or a publisher's credibility and authority. A "yes" answer to any of the negative questions should be concerning. "Yes" answers to multiple negative questions should raise strong concerns about a journal's standards for editing and/or publishing and its suitability as a vehicle for scholarly research.

Positive Journal Questions

  • Is the scope of the journal well defined and clearly stated?
  • Is the editorial board clearly evident with full names and institutional affiliations?
  • Is the peer review process clearly evident?
  • Are any fees or charges for publishing in the journal clearly identified and explained?
  • Is the journal publisher identified with contact information?
  • Do the articles published in the journal reflect the scope of the journal?
  • Are the copyright policies of the journal clear?
  • Are instructions to authors readily available?
  • Is the journal listed in subject index & abstract databases?
  • Does the journal have a conflict of interest policy for authors, editors and reviewers?

Negative Journal Questions

  • Is the journal website is difficult to find or to identify?
  • Is the journal name is very similar or easily confused with another more established journal name?
  • Is the “About” section is missing from the journal or publisher websites?
  • Does the publisher send out direct marketing “spamming” invitations to publish, edit or review?
  • Is the journal scope absent or extremely vague?
  • Does the journal contain articles which are clearly out of context for its scope?
  • Are there repeat lead authors in the same issue?
  • Is information about fees or charges missing?

Sources

The sources of questions and topics in the "Questions to answer about your journal" section are: