How to choose your target journal

Regional or international audience?

As discussed earlier, you should assess the relevance and applicability of your study to other populations. You should then confirm that your target journal will reach the most appropriate audience. You can determine the audience of a journal by reading its aims and scope statement, which is published on its website. Another clue is to identify where most of its past authors are based, such as Western or Asian countries, or worldwide. This choice may also influence the publication language.

English is the global language of research communication. Hence, to ensure that your work reaches the widest audience possible, you should write your manuscript in English and aim for an international journal. 

For example, a small study on pain and major depressive disorder conducted in Turkey may be better suited to publication in Turkish in Anadolu Psikiyatri Dergisi. A similar study conducted in China may be better suited for the English-language regional journal East Asian Archives of Psychiatry. In contrast, a larger study with broader appeal might be better suited for publication in English in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 

Read widely to find journals that publish studies similar to yours

Finding related articles in online searches can be helpful. You can find journals that might be suitable for your study. Also, such searches can help you to decide the best way to communicate your findings.. Match the journal’s aims and scope to your manuscript’s text, especially in your introduction and discussion. 

For example, for an international journal, you will need to write about the worldwide relevance of your topic in your Introduction. Then you write about the worldwide implications of your study in your Discussion. As you continue searching and reading, make a shortlist of about five to eight potential target journals for your manuscript.

General or specialist journal?

When you have a shortlist of possible target journals, you can further narrow your selection by deciding if your study is suitable for a general or more targeted journal. 

For example, the paperDeterministic switching of ferromagnetism at room temperature using an electric field” was suitable for publication in Nature because its findings were wide-ranging and applicable to several disciplines. By contrast, the paperRoom-temperature ferromagnetism of 2H-SiC-α-Al2O3 solid solution nanowires and the physical origin” was more suited to the specialist journal Nanoscale because it specifically focused on the novel synthesis of 2H-SiC-α-Al2O3 solid solution nanowires using 2H-SiC as the host phase, which is more relevant to researchers working in that specific field. 

Similarly, a medical study might be purely clinical or it might include some basic research. Some journals, such as Neurology Clinical Practice, publish only clinical studies, whereas some, such as the Journal of Neurology, include a mixture of clinical and basic research. 

If you match your paper to the right journal and interested audience, you can increase the number of citations your article receives. Reaching a smaller target audience in lower impact journals that are widely read in a certain discipline can often be more important than reaching wider multidisciplinary readers. 

Read the Aims and Scope

A journal’s aims and scope statement can tell you if that journal would be interested in your results. This will tell you how the journal situates itself and what its major themes and intentions are. Read the aims and scopes of all of your potential journals. Then try to narrow down your shortlist to three to five likely journals. 

Look very closely at the subject matter covered by the journals. For example, Human Pathology covers many areas that are relevant to human disease including clinicopathological observations and analyses of problems in pathology. But Diagnostic Histopathology is more of a teaching resource for surgical and diagnostic histopathologists. As another example, Experimental Economics covers laboratory research related to real-world economic contexts, whereas Econometrica publishes theoretical and research studies dealing with  economics and economic problems, with an emphasis on mathematical methods.

Similarly, journals vary in the types of paper that they publish (e.g., original research, reviews, case reports), so check first before submitting a particular type of paper. For example, Practical Neurology is unusual in that it does not publish original research. Instead, it includes case reports and commissioned reviews. A growing number of health care journals do not accept case reports. Such journals include the Journal of Infection and the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

After you have determined if your work is a match for journal-related factors, next you should think about your own publication goals. Based on your goals, you can decide your first, second, and possibly third choice of journal. Review your publication goals, if needed. 

The aims and scope of many journals can be very general. Check that the journal is currently publishing research like yours. Look at recently published articles from that journal using similar keywords to yours. If your topic meets the aims and scope of the journal, but the journal has not published similar articles in the last few years, the editor will probably not be interested in your research topic.

Example: Applied linguistics

Although applied linguistics is often defined as applying scientific linguistics research to real-world uses, this interdisciplinary field supports its own original research and journals. Applied linguistics research may also be published in journals devoted to such allied fields as psychology, communication, social science, ethnic and gender studies, literature, education, computer science, neuroscience, critical theory, and public policy, and so may follow the style guidelines for those fields. Applied linguistic journals can specialize in different areas such as second-language writing, or English language teaching. Even broad journals can have slightly different angles. For example, Applied Linguistics covers any research to do with language linked to real-world problems, whereas System publishes studies dealing with educational technology and applied linguistics in the context of foreign language teaching and learning.

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