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Scholarly Publishing

A guide to publishing strategically

How to assess a journal (CARL)

This guide was produced by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. It introduces researchers to key list of things to consider when assessing a journal and these are very helpful factors to consider in your decision. It complements similar lists such as those created by Think, Check, Submit.

Think, check, submit

Think, Check, Submit provides researchers with a series of prompts and questions to help them decide about journals and publishers that they can trust.

View the Think, Check, Submit video below for a quick introduction.

How can I publish strategically?


Watch Dr Lauren Notini, Research Fellow in Biomedical Ethics at the Melbourne Law School and recipient of an University of Melbourne Early Career Research Grant for 2019 share tips for strategic publishing.

What to consider when choosing a journal?

1. Publisher copyright policies

An important consideration is what will the publisher allow authors to do with the published copy of the article. Where can it be shared to make it known more broadly?

SHERPA RoMEO is a searchable database of publisher's policies regarding the self-archiving of journal articles on the web and in Open Access repositories.



2. Scope of the journal

  • An important consideration in the choice of journals for publication is the scope of the journal, or the extent of the area or subject matter that it deals with.
  • Access Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory  - look at the 'description' field for each journal. Also, sometimes there is a separate review for the journal in 'reviews'. 
  • Additionally, go to the Journal Website. On the Journal's website look for a section titled 'About the journal' or 'Full aims and scope' to find information regarding the aims and scope provided by the journal editors.
  • Find journals with topics similar to the topic of your research by searching databases indexing the journals. Use keywords aligned with your research topic.

3. Audience and style of the journal

  • Is there a match between the subject of your article and the journal's aim and its scope?
  • Building a picture of the people you are trying to reach will help you decide where to submit your article.
  • Submitting a manuscript to unsuitable journals is a common error. Choose a journal that matches your paper more closely.
  • Look at the topics the journal often publish. Consider the sort of research the journal focuses on (Is it theoretical or applied?). Also consider the journals that have published the frequently used references in your work.

Readership and Audience: Consider if the audience of the journal is going to be interested in your work: if your subject is very specialised and field-specific or if the topic might interest a broader audience.  At the same time is your paper intended for practitioners or researchers only?

Article type: What types of articles or research designs are accepted?

Practical tip

Consider creating your own matrix template. Compile a shortlist as you go through considering various journal title. Visit each of these journal’s websites to read instructions to authors and include any relevant factors in your template. In doing so you will be able to eliminate some of the titles on your list as you go.

4. Prestige & impact of the journal

Be strategic where you publish. The journals an author has published in can affect their career advancement and even future funding opportunities.

Who decides about the prestige of a journal?

Perceptions are held regarding journal prestige and esteem and influenced by various factors. Multiple indicators are used to compare academic journals:

  • Perceptions held by esteemed researchers or the scholarly community as a whole
  • League lists
  • Commercial and academic ranking lists

ERA Journal lists

The Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA)  initiative developed by the Australian Research Council has been used over a number of years (2010, 2012 & 2015) to assess research quality within Australia's higher education institutions. 

Why is the Ranked Journal list no longer used?    Following feedback from Research Evaluation Committees the ranked journal profiles were removed as an indicator for the ERA 2012 evaluation.The ranked journal list is no longer available from the ARC website. 

5. Review process

Listen to what editors and reviewers are looking for - When the author of a paper submits a paper for publishing the first time, the journal editor/s will give it a quick read-over.

Some editors may return it to an author early on before the formal review process, together with some brief comments. They could mention if there are glaring issues needing tightening up at this stage. That is done to help provide quick feedback and useful for future reference.
If the editor/s are satisfied at this stage, the author will receive an acknowledgement of receipt and indication that the paper is sent out for review.


The review process

  • The Title page with the Author details and name is removed, before the paper is sent to reviewers, to not compromise the blind peer review process.
  • A reference number is linked to the paper. It is then sent to at least two selected referees, together with the journal's evaluation sheet.
  • The evaluation sheet provides space for the reviewers comments. Some of the comments may be intended for the author, and a couple only for the journal editors.


  • Should be experienced academics and researchers, with the expertise to critically evaluate the writing within the scholarly field the author is addressing. 
  • Sometimes these experts are so up-to-date in their field that they are able to to guess, through attendance of conferences and by reading other publications, who the author might be.
  • Most of times these reviewers might not be based in the author's own institution.
  • Returns the reviewed papers and comments within a pre-defined period of 6 weeks or longer to the editors for final decision and processing.
  • Because these are experienced researchers, they might be busy. Reviewers also do not receive compensation (however some recognition). This can result in delays and editors sometimes need to send reminders.


Manuscript rejection and ways to prevent it

Authors can be their own friend: - Aim to submit the best possible paper, meeting the journal's requirements precisely.


Writing and structure:

A well-written, structured, visually appealing and interesting article, will mostly entice the reviewer to get through reviewing the paper and providing constructive comments.

A sparkly abstract:

Spark interest by writing a very good abstract. Most reviewers will read that as soon as they receive the manuscript.

A great title:

  • Urges the audience to read on. A poor title never draws an audience in.
  • Indexing and abstracting services (aka databases) relies on accurate titles and extract keywords from them for cross-referencing.
  • Effective titles identifies the article's main issue and they are unambiguous and as short as possible


Possible outcomes of the review

  • Unconditional acceptance
  • Accepted subject to minor revisions
  • Revise and resubmit
  • Outright rejection

Peer reviewed journals

Peer reviewed journals * (tutorial with audio, 4:22 min, 3.2Mb)

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6. Publishing model

The challenge for digital scholarly publishing - open access or not - is how to generate the funds needed to support themselves sustainably.

A publishers' business model may affect the way authors and readers communicate and perhaps how peer review is approached. Newer business models are often internet-mediated and often provide a mixed- media and perhaps more integrated approach.

They can include new dissemination processes and may allow more openly accessible results. Funding bodies for instance are encouraging authors to consider depositing their research and data in public accessible repositories.

Typical publishing business models:

Traditional: - This is a fee-for-access publishing model.

Green: - Allow authors to place their articles and data in publicly accessible repositories. Sherpa/Romeo defines this as ‘can archive pre-print and post-print or publisher’s version/PDF’

Hybrid: - A publishing model that allow authors to pay a fee to make articles available ‘open access’ in a normally fee for access publication

Gold: - Indicates entirely open access dissemination model where Article Processing Charges normally comes into the play (Paid Open Access). Pure Gold open access journals are not subscription based and only charge and APC as a means of recouping costs. In some cases, the option simply consists of making the published version freely available from the publisher’s own server, without any other rights or permissions being granted. In others, material is still placed under an embargo. 

7. Article processing charges & discounts

University of Melbourne researchers have access to a number of discounts on article processing charges (APCs). Publisher manuscript systems may or may not advise the corresponding authors about the availability of discounts.


Note: The button below will open the Open Research guide in a new window.


 Publisher discounts on Article Processing Charges for the University of Melbourne