How do you choose where to publish your research? Are there a set handful of journals that are seen as ‘the best’ in your discipline? Has your supervisor pointed you to one that they typically refer to? These approaches are good, but they might miss journals that are relatively new or better suited for your work than your supervisor realises.
In this post we’ll explore a slightly different approach, which will offer some tips for making a more informed decision to help you ensure you achieve the outcomes you’re after.
Narrow down your options with these questions
First up, you’ll need to have a think about the why. Why are you publishing? Who do you want to see your work? What impact are you hoping it will have? Selecting a journal with a high Impact Factor might be important for some aspects of career progression, but there are many other factors that come into play as well. Here are some things you might want to consider:
- Does your funder have an open access requirement?
- Would you like your work to be available to a wider audience?
- Is an article the best way to communicate your results, or would an alternative format be more suitable?
- Who do you think your work is most relevant to, and how can you make it as discoverable as possible to them?
- Do you have time/resource to promote your work yourself, or might you want some support from the publisher?
Taking these other elements into account could have a big impact on the place you choose to publish, and only by conducting a more thorough investigation of the options is it possible to make a really informed decision.
What’s out there? How does it compare?
So, you’re ready to go: you know what you’re publishing and what you’re hoping to accomplish by doing so. The next step is to determine the best venue for realising these goals. Resources you can use to help you do this include:
- Personal recommendations – from your peers, co-authors or wider networks
- Journal websites and author instruction pages – it’s important to make sure your work fits into a journal’s scope!
- The papers you’ve already read – which publications are they citing? Who is citing them? What journals are publishing your favorite/most impressive recent articles you’ve read?
- Google Scholar and publisher websites – these sources will help you find journal titles beyond those that your library subscribes to
Using other data to inform your decision
Knowing your field and recommendations from colleagues are of course a pretty good way to narrow down your choices, but metrics can be a handy tool to use to evaluate your options from a different perspective. Used correctly, metrics can help you uncover success stories, and exploring the data further can help you determine how those successes were achieved and how you might realise the same.
When you’re using metrics in this (and indeed, any) context, it’s really important to remember one key thing: the numbers are only an indicator, and can only be interpreted correctly with an understanding of the activity behind them.
Journal Impact Factors
A publication’s Journal Impact Factor is calculated annually and shows how often an average article from that journal is cited in a given year:
2016 Impact Factor = number of times articles published in 2014 + 2015 were cited in 2016/number of citable articles published in 2014 + 2015
Impact Factors can be found in the Journal Citation Reports and are widely used in the sciences because they are a convenient shorthand for the academic influence of a journal as a whole. Be sure to bear in mind, though, that they don’t necessarily reflect the quality of individual articles, and may differ significantly by discipline (notable in the humanities, which are often poorly represented by citation metrics).
Article Citation Counts
A more detailed analysis of individual articles’ citation counts, and the context of those citations, can help you get a better idea of the extent to which each article published in the journal has achieved positive recognition amongst scholars, and why.
Altmetrics can help you get a better understanding of the influence and reach of individual articles amongst researchers and the broader public alike. They collate in real-time and can tell you if articles have been tweeted about, cited in public policy documents, or shared in many other spaces on the social web. You might have already come across them on publisher websites or other platforms such as your institutional repository – many have embedded the Altmetric badges to showcase this online engagement for their articles.
When sifting through altmetrics for articles published by a journal you’re evaluating, there are a few different ways to parse the numbers:
First, you can look at specific types of altmetrics, depending on what type of exposure is important to you (e.g. tweets about an article from certain countries, citations in public policy documents from NGOs that are relevant to your field, and so on). You can do this by clicking on the Altmetric badges where you see them on publisher sites, or by installing the Altmetric bookmarklet, which can be used on any item with a DOI (a unique scholarly identifier).
Another way to parse the data is to use the Altmetric Attention Score, a weighted summary metric of all the attention a piece of research has received online, as a way of identifying whether research published in certain journals gets more attention in general than research published elsewhere. Some journals show the Altmetric badges in their table of contents to make it easy to see which articles in each issues have received attention – the higher the score, the more attention they’ve received.
You can use individual articles’ Attention Score as a starting point, to dig into its underlying metrics and full-text mentions. From there, you may be able to understand whether certain journals are better at helping to promote their authors’ work than others. For example, are many of the tweets for articles prompted by a journal’s official Twitter account? One important caveat for the Attention Score: like the Journal Impact Factor, it should not be interpreted as an indicator of the quality of an article – rather it is designed to help you identify where there is attention that might be worth exploring further.
In instances where you want to publish something other than a journal article–whether it’s a monograph, preprint, dataset, or research software–you can use altmetrics to investigate a publisher or platform (e.g. SSRN, arXiv, bioRxiv, or figshare). Many publishers are great at helping to promote the books they publish, and many platforms are specially designed to make content easy to find for your potential audience. By examining the altmetrics for content already published on a platform/by a publisher, you can get a sense at how good they might be at helping to promote your research, if you publish with them, too!
If an objective for your work is to reach a specific audience, it’s worth looking to see which articles have already managed to do so, and to explore further to see how this happened (have they been featured in certain blogs, for example, or are there social media groups that pick up on articles from certain journals?)
To find the altmetrics in journals or other research publication platforms that you’re considering you can look for the Altmetric badges on article pages, in your CRIS or in your institutional repository. Alternatively, download our free Bookmarklet tool, which can be used to view the Altmetric data for any item with a DOI.
Pulling it all together
Once you’ve done some digging and collated all of the information via the channels above, it’s time to pull it all together to determine which publication will provide the best venue for your research. Make sure you focus on the factors that are important to you, and align with what you’re trying to achieve!
How did things turn out?
Congratulations! Your research is out there for the world to read. But did you get the results you wanted? Would it be beneficial to publish in this journal again in future, or is there another that might also be worth a try? Tools like the Altmetric bookmarklet, Explorer (if your institution has access) or badges on publisher sites can also be useful for checking in regularly on the engagement your own work has been receiving – so you can keep track of who’s said what when.
You might notice that your work is being used in unexpected ways, or receiving attention from new audiences you hadn’t considered. If you’ve published a dataset or other items that are available for reuse, altmetrics can help you see who’s found and repurposed your work.
Many publishers provide download stats and citation counts that can help you see how the engagement compares to actual usage and scholarly impact. All of this data combined can help you determine whether or not you’ve reached your goal – be it reaching a certain audience, having an influence on public policy, or just advancing knowledge and awareness of your work and discipline.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to check in on how your research is doing and the activity that’s been happening around it – you never know when you might find something great to include in your CV or next funding application!
Want advice on how to get more attention for your research? Download our tips and tricks guide for some great ideas!