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Scholarly Communication

Questions to ask when selecting or shortlisting journals

Step 1: Start the search by creating a pool of potential journals.

You can do so by: 

  • Referring to the journals referenced in the bibliography of key papers in your field 
  • Looking at your manuscript's references to see where the articles you have cited were published
  • Consulting your research network (i.e. supervisors, mentors, seniors or colleagues)
  • Searching in journal finders or recommenders using major keywords from your manuscript
  • Performing a topical search in databases to identify potential journals for your manuscript

Step 2: Narrow down to a handful of suitable journals and compare them.

Below are some of the most important criteria to keep in mind when choosing a journal that is a good match for your research.

  • What are the aims and scope of the journal?

    Look for sections titled “About the Journal,"Aims and Scope", or something similar on the journal homepage. This will let you know the aims of the journals, who reads the journal and if your research is a good match for the journal.

  • Has the journal published articles that are similar to yours?

    ‚ÄčPerform a search in the journal based on the keywords used in your manuscript to determine whether the journal has published work that is similar to yours. Find articles published within the last 3 - 5 years and try to determine whether these papers are similar to yours in quality and scope. You can also look at what are the recent special issues or editorials to identify the journal editor's interest. Matching your article's content and what the journal is looking for will increase your chances of review.

  • Do you want to publish Open Access (OA)? 
    Are you required by your grant funder to publish in an OA journal? Does your journal offer the traditional, OA or hybrid publishing avenues? Publishing OA in journals generally will involve authors paying some kind of Article Processing Charges! The OA policies, requirements and charges can all be found on  the journal's website. Read more about Open Access and some of our NUS Libraries initiatives for NUS authors:

  • What are the journal’s restrictions?

    In the journal's homepage, look for sections titled “Information for Authors” or Editorial policies section of your journal to determine the journal’s restrictions. Certain restrictions such as publication type, word count, methodology, referencing styles or publication costs are common restrictions that authors may consider. Another important consideration could be the time it takes from acceptance to publication, or even the publication frequency of the journal.

  • What are the journal’s metrics?

    The validity of the Journal Impact Factor or other journal metrics (e.g. CiteScore, SJR, SNIP) as a measure for journal quality is controversial. Nevertheless, they remain the default method for determining the quality and reputation of a journal. Although it is tempting to submit a manuscript to the journal with the highest journal metrics, it is important to objectively evaluate your research and determine whether it is truly suitable for a top-tier journal. Otherwise, you will risk valuable time and effort resubmitting (and reformatting) your manuscript multiple times for multiple journals. To learn more about journal metrics, visit our Research Impact guide.

Adapted from: American Journal Experts 


Other than comparing journals, some authors prefer to use evaluative checklists to identify the best journal. Checklists like Think. Check. Submit could be useful to help evaluate journals or even identify potentially predatory journals. You may refer to our guide on checklists here.

Journal finders and article analysers

Use the following free tools to search for suitable journals by subject category, publisher, title, abstract and keywords. 

Below are some domain or subject-specific journal finders:

Below are some publisher-linked journal finders:

Below are some general journal finders from editing services:

Performing a bibliographic/topical search to identify potential journals

Performing a topical search on a database may be a useful method for you to identify potential journals for your manuscript. This method relies on you (the author) identifying the right key phrases and terms that best describes your manuscript and searching for these topics in a database. Performing such a search will retrieve published articles in journals that are similar to your manuscript, ergo, these journals could be potential journals that would also publish your paper. This method is best performed by the author/research team as you would know the best key terms for searching and know how to evaluate the retrieved articles for their relevance (and subsequently the journals itself). Once you have a list of this potential journals, you can then compare them using your own specific criteria, or rely on journal metrics to help you decide on the most suitable journal - if you'd like to evaluate the journals using metrics, you can refer to this journal metrics guide for more information and steps on how to retrieve them.

Here is an example of how you can perform a topical search on the database Scopus to retrieve articles/journals.

Identify key terms and phrases that best describes your manuscript. Construct a search statement using Boolean operators to help you retrieve the most similar/relevant articles that matches your manuscript

“Screenshot” from Scopus by Elsevier

You can choose to use the filters on the left to help you further sort and restrict your search results

“Screenshot” from Scopus by Elsevier

Select all the records and click on export

“Screenshot” from Scopus by Elsevier

Ensure that you have selected 'Source Title' and CSV as your export format

“Screenshot” from Scopus by Elsevier

You can then refer to the exported file to perform your own further filters to identify the relevant journals. Some methods could involve looking at the number of times a journal is found on the list, matching the journal with the article title to determine relevance, removing rows/records that are not relevant to you, or searching for specific journals online to find more information

Alternatively, you can also use the 'Analyze Search Results' function to perform a quick analysis of the journal titles

“Screenshot” from Scopus by Elsevier

Click on the card 'Documents per year by source'

“Screenshot” from Scopus by Elsevier

This summarizes the number of articles that are published in each respective journal over the time period

“Screenshot” from Scopus by Elsevier

You can also try performing such searches on other  databases such as Web of Science as it also allows you to perform a comprehensive search and allows you to export or analyze results to identify potential journals.