What journal should I publish in?

by | Nov 9, 2016 | academic writing

Publishing is the most impactful way that academics establish credibility in their niche. The holy grail of publishing in most fields is the peer-reviewed academic journal. The journals with the best reputations that are shaping fields in major ways are called “top tier” journals. Of course, these are also the most competitive and difficult to publish in. If you have never been published in a peer-reviewed journal before, don’t start with a top tier journal.

Why? Shouldn’t you shoot for the best? Well, if you haven’t noticed, writing a journal article is completely different from the kind of writing you probably did in graduate school. It’s not a term paper. It’s not a dissertation chapter. It’s a completely different animal.

Submitting to a mid-tier or highly niched journal will teach you how to go through the peer review process. You are more likely to get a “revised and resubmit” and good, actionable feedback than an outright rejection (we hope so anyway!).

You should know the top-tier journals in your niche (not sure what your niche is? do this exercise to figure it out here), but you should also identify several mid-tier and niched journals to target for your publications. Filling out these charts will help you identify those mid-tier or niched journals that you should target.

Identify 3 Target Journals for Your Niche:

You might be able to rattle off the top 3 journals in your field by now already. But there are tons of other journals that might actually be a better fit for your work. The question is: which ones should you target?

Choose your top 5 favorite academic journal articles. The ones you just love because they speak directly to your niche. First, note in what journal these are published. Next, turn to the reference list and look at the journals they reference. You will likely start to see a pattern. Note the five or six most frequently cited journals.

Go to the web page of those five or six journals and review the titles of the latest two editions. Can you see your work standing alongside of those articles? Do those articles use methodologies similar to yours? Theoretical frameworks? When you read through those article titles you want to feel like, “I’ve found my people!” If you feel that way, then write the journal title on the chart below.

Choose one or two articles that seem right down your alley and write their titles in the second column on the chart. Finally, find the “for authors” part of the journal’s website. This is where the journal editors specify the process for submitting the article, formatting, any recent special issue calls, etc. Copy and paste the link to that page in column 3.

My List of Mid-tier or Niched Journals

Journal Title Latest relevant content “For authors” page

These are your target journals for publication. You should get very familiar with them and check their issues often so you keep up with trends in what they publish.

Tip: DO NOT publish in non-peer reviewed journals, journals that require you to pay to publish in them (at least in the social sciences, education, etc.—In the “hard” sciences this is common), newsletters, or open-source journals that write to you soliciting content. It is better to have no publications than to publish in a source of questionable credibility because people will think that you can’t get your work published anywhere else.

Here’s a way to get a quick publishing win. Look at your newly-formed list of target journals. Find out if they accept book reviews and find the name and email of the book review editor. Journals normally do not accept unsolicited book reviews, so you’ll want to pick a recently published book you’ve read (or want to read) and write to the book review editor asking if they would be interested in a review of that book. Most journals that accept book reviews list their format on their “For Authors” page. Generally, book reviews are short (maybe 500-1000 words) and since you probably need to read and take notes on the book anyway, it’s not that much extra work to write up a review.

What next?

So much of success in academic publishing in having clarity and taking focussed, small actions toward your goal. I hope that working through these exercises has contributed to that clarity! The next question is: What is your next action step? A book review? Revising an article for publication in one of your target journals? A funding proposal? Tell me in the comments below!

Best (just kidding–that sounds SO academic ;)),



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