An evidence-based approach to spotting a predatory journal
Unfortunately no comprehensive list exists which lists all quality journals or those to avoid. But evaluating an unfamiliar journal can be an easy process if you know what to look for. Here are ten things to keep in mind when considering submitting an article to a new journal:
- Verify indexing claims. Many predatory journals claim to be indexed in places where they are not. Don’t just take their word for it, check for yourself if the journal actually has articles indexed in the indices listed on their website. It is easy to do a search by journal name on most indexing platforms. Below are some example for our journal, the Medical Research Archives:
- Check previous issues of the journal. Any legitimate journal should have an archive of past issues which adhere to a regular publication schedule. If a journal has gaps in its publication history or claims to have been in publication for years but only has issues going back a few months that could be a red flag. An example of an archive of past issues for our journal may be found here.
- Watch out for surprise fees. Many legitimate journals charge authors a fee to cover publication costs. But if the fees are not clearly listed on their website or the journal waits until after a acceptance of an article to mention that a fee needs to be paid then it is definitely not a journal you want to be associated with. Information about a journal’s fees should be transparent and easy to find like this.
- Double check Impact Factors. An Impact Factor (IF) is not a perfect measure of a journal’s quality. There are many good journals which don’t have an IF, and many bad journals which do. However be alert for journals which falsely claim to have an IF when they do not, or use their own made up metric which is not verifiable. As always, this information should be clearly stated on the journal’s website like this.
- Read several articles published in the journal. Look for signs of adequate copyediting and formatting, proper use of the English language, and references to support the authors’ claims.
- Beware of unjust retraction or withdrawal policies. No legitimate journal charges a fee to retract or make a correction to a published article, or refuses to withdraw an article which is pending publication until the author pays a fee. The journal’s website should state their policies for retractions like this.
- Check copyright transfer policies. Most quality open-access journals use a Creative Commons License rather than asking authors to sign over their copyrights to the journal. A journal’s copyright policies should be readily available on their website.
- Does the journal have an ISSN and DOIs? All legitimate journals have an ISSN and assign a digital object identifier (DOI) to each of their articles to ensure long-term access even if the website or publisher changes.
- Is the editorial board real? Some dishonest journals list editorial board members who never agreed to serve on their board. If you aren’t sure you can always contact some of the listed board members to verify that they are actually affiliated with the journal. A legitimate editorial board should include biographies or at least affiliations of the board members.
- Who is the publisher? A journal doesn’t have to be published by a large international publisher like Elsevier or Wiley to be legitimate. But a lack of any information about the publisher of the journal could be a red flag. It’s worth checking before submitting an article to a journal. Our journal, for example, is published by the European Society of Medicine.