How do I determine the quality of a journal?

Last month, we had a post concerning the impact factor calculation for journals, but this time, we will discuss the broader concept of quality in general.

The quality of journals can be viewed from many different perspectives.  As a scholarly reader, one will want to make sure that: the contents of a journal can be trusted; the research and data is accurate; the level of research is appropriate; the author(s) are reputable; and the publisher is viewed by others as prestigious.

General information about journals can be found in the UlrichsWeb database and a reference book called Magazines for Libraries, which includes information on academic journals as well.

If you want to submit your article to a scholarly source, your concerns about the quality of the publication may be slightly different.  The publisher should have a good reputation, and you also want to make sure that the circulation of the journal is high. The journal should have good editors and reviewers with a solid editorial board. However, the prestige of a journal and publisher is difficult to quantify; scholars usually think of publishers in qualitative terms.

For many scholars, the perceived quality of a journal is tied to the perceived reputation of the publisher. For the most part, societies and university presses publish the highest quality journals, but there are many good journals that are published by commercial presses.

One could ask a scholar or a researcher for a list of the top 10 or so journals in a field.  If one were to ask an organic chemist, he or she might provide a list of the best organic chemistry journals.  However, you will get a different list from a different scholar, but there would probably be some overlap.  Some university departments and organizations may provide lists of journals where one should read or publish in.

Journals are containers for articles, and the quality of articles within a journal will vary depending upon the author, who reviewed the paper, who edited the paper and the topic of the research.  Journals with good reputations can have articles that are tangential to your research, and journals that have a mediocre reputation can have articles that are very relevant to your research.

Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Note: this blog post was modified on 2/6/12.

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