When to decide. When possible, it’s helpful to decide before you start writing the paper. I would write a paper for Journal of Research on Adolescence with a much more theoretical/conceptual focus, whereas one for Journal of Adolescent Health with more of a public health impact focus. In addition, JAH has a much shorter manuscript length. I’ll have less backend work if I know where I plan to submit from the start. It’s not always possible, of course. It’s hard to know at the start of writing a thesis, for instance, where you might send it. But when you can pre-plan, it will make your life easier.
Building your CV. When possible, think what journal would make the best line on your CV for the jobs you will eventually apply. Honestly, I freaked out the students a bit with this point (they are 2nd year grad students) and had to backpedal some. My point was not that every journal has to be the perfect fit for your future job – many 2nd year students have no idea what their ideal future job will be. But when you do know, try to match it. As a couple of examples – if you know that you might want to work at a liberal arts college, they are less likely to have HDFS departments, and so students from our program are more likely headed to psychology departments at such universities. Thus, publishing in psychology journals when possible may be more valuable than sociology journals. When I was in grad school and pre-tenure, I didn’t want to send all of my papers to sex journals because I wanted to show that I was publishing in developmental journals that most of my colleagues were familiar with, in addition to some sex journals. Be strategic when possible. But don’t make yourself crazy.
Journal’s mission. Read the journal’s mission and instructions to authors. Some journals may seem like a great fit at first glance, but may only accept qualitative research. Some may only want data collected in the past 5 years. Having a good sense of the journal’s goals will quickly help you decide if it’s a good fit.
Tier. Not every paper you submit will go to a top tier journal. If you are in a rush to get something accepted (e.g., you will soon go up for review or are about to go on the market), it may make sense to aim a bit lower and have a lower chance of an outright rejection. Keep in mind, though, that lower tier journals sometimes provide more random reviews. I was associate editor at Developmental Psychology and at times I had to ask 10 people in order to get 3 reviewers. And that’s a top tier journal. Imagine what it’s like to get people to review for journals with less prestige.
Response time. Some journals are known for quick response times, and some for slow ones. Although some journals publish their response times, much of this information is reputation based. If you’re in a rush, obviously a journal with a quick response time is preferable. There are times when it may matter less. I have a paper that’s been with a journal for over 4 months now (5 months as I’m finally reviewing and posting this), and honestly, I’m just as happy that it hasn’t come back to me yet.
Page requirements. There’s a range of guidelines/requirements, so pick a journal that matches your planned length or existing length. Also, if you want to write a brief report, only some journals accept them.
Society-affiliated journals. It can be great to publish in a journal like Child Development or JRA that is connected to an organization/society. SRA sends out emails about every 2 weeks that summarize some key studies, and there’s also a prestige factor with being in the journal associated with the society that most people in your discipline belong to. So, keep an eye out for these journals.
Special Issues. Another high profile opportunity can be a special issue on a specific topic. You already know the journal is interested in that topic. And, when the issue comes out, you’ll be grouped with similarly themed papers, so people are more likely to find yours if they find one of them.
Browse recent issues. Before deciding, look at recent issues of that journal. Do they have similar samples? Similar methods? Topics? You don’t want to repeat what’s been done before, but if a journal never publishes papers about sex, or never uses college student samples, it may not be a good fit.
We also talked about some key points in writing a manuscript, which I’ll try to post about soon. And, we talked about intentional writing – you can see my series on it here:
Intentional writing introduction
Intentional writing #1: Use consistent terms
Intentional writing #2: Consistent ordering avoids confusion
Intentional writing #3: Vanquish the vague
Intentional writing #4: Dis the this
Intentional writing #5: Start & end strong
Intentional writing #6: Leave them with something to remember
“The post Choosing a journal for submission first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on March 25, 2015.”