Career advice

Don’t Fall Prey to Predatory Journals

4 min read · By Academic Positions

It sounds too good to be true—and it often is. A journal emails you out of the blue offering to publish your research right away for just a couple hundred bucks. These predatory journals exploit the open access publication model. For a much lower fee than reputable journals, they will publish your paper almost instantly since they are not peer reviewed or edited. However, since these journals aren’t indexed, no one will be able to find your research. Predatory journals just want your money.

How to Spot a Predatory Journal

Predatory journals start by sending you an unsolicited email. They can easily find your email address on the department website and often target researchers who have recently published. The email will address you in very flattering terms and invite you to submit to their journal. This alone should raise red flags. Very rarely are scholars invited to submit their work to a journal unless they have previously discussed it with the editor. The journal will have a title that is very similar to a legitimate journal. They will promise speedy publication and play up their own importance. As you read the email, pay careful attention to the spelling and grammar. Typos and poor grammar are hallmarks of predatory journals.

predatory journal email

A typical predatory journal email. Note the enthusiastic greeting, processing fee, and short review period.

Evaluate the Journal

If the emails seem suspicious, there are a few ways to evaluate if it is from a reputable journal. The first step is to check the journal’s website. Look at the journal’s editorial board. It should be made up of recognized experts in the field. Check if the board members also list their editorial board membership on their own websites or CVs. Predatory journals often falsely claim that recognizable scholars are members of their editorial board to appear legitimate.

The next step is to research the editor-in-chief. Can you find them on a university web page or on LinkedIn? Is this the only journal they edit or do they also edit multiple journals across several disciplines? Predatory publishers often list the same editor-in-chief for multiple journals. The journal website should also mention who the publisher is and include a description of the peer review process. Most predatory journals are not peer reviewed or promise an impossibly fast review period. Finally look for information about fees. Does the website explain what fees authors will be charged and why? Credible journals don’t usually charge a submission fee, but they do charge a publication fee once the article is accepted.

Another way to assess a journal’s quality is to read multiple issues of the journal. Evaluate the quality of the studies they publish and check for obvious copy editing errors. Ask yourself if all the studies are relevant to the journal’s mission.

Check Out the Publisher

If you have any doubts about the journal after looking at their website and back catalogue, you can dig a little deeper into the publisher. There are several blacklists and whitelists you can use to check if this journal is the right place to publish your research:

  • Directory of Open Access Journals- Journals in this directory have been reviewed to ensure they are scholarly, open access, control quality through peer review, have a registered ISSN, and are upfront about publication fees. If a journal is listed here it can be trusted, although is important to note that the directory doesn’t include very new journals that could be credible.
  • Open Access Scholarly Publishers’ Association- Open access publishers that are members of the OASPA are committed to best publishing practices and must fulfill strict membership criteria. Titles published by these publishers can be trusted.
  • Committee on Publication Ethics- Similar to OASPA, publishers that are members of this committee are committed to ethical publishing practices. No predatory journals will appear in the membership list.
  • Check if the journal’s articles are indexed on PubMed or Web of Science. If the articles aren’t indexed, you don’t want to publish in the journal as your research will effectively be lost.                                         

The journals you publish your research in should help you get citations and raise your professional profile. It is worth carefully evaluating a journal before you submit.

By Academic Positions · Published 2019-12-02

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