Evaluating Online Scholarly Journals for Quality

When evaluating an online academic publication, including open access journals, for quality and legitimacy, the following should be considered:

  1. Peer review process: All of a journal’s content, apart from any editorial material that is clearly marked as such, should be subjected to peer review. This process, as well as any policies related to the journal’s peer review procedures, should be clearly described on the journal’s Web site.
  2. Editorial Board or Other Governing Body: Journals should have editorial boards or other governing bodies whose members are recognized experts in the subject areas included within the journal’s scope. The full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors should be provided on the journal’s Web site.
  3. Author fees: Any fees or charges that are required for manuscript processing and/or publishing materials in the journal should be clearly stated in a place that is easy for potential authors to find prior to submitting their manuscripts for review or explained to authors before they begin preparing their manuscript for submission.
  4. Copyright: Copyright and licensing information should be clearly described on the journal’s Web site, and licensing terms, if any, should be clearly indicated on all published versions of the article, including HTML and PDFs. Learn more about copyright and maintaining your rights as an author.
  5. Policy and Procedure on Research Misconduct: Publishers and editors should take reasonable steps to identify and prevent the publication of papers where research misconduct has occurred, including plagiarism, citation manipulation, and data falsification/fabrication, among others. In the event that a journal’s publisher or editors are made aware of any allegation of research misconduct relating to a published article in their journal, the publisher or editor should follow the guidelines of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) or its equivalent in dealing with those allegations.
  6. Ownership and management: Information about the ownership and/or management of a journal should be clearly indicated on the journal’s Web site. Publishers should not use organizational names that would mislead potential authors and editors about the nature of the journal’s owner.
  7. Web site: A journal’s Web site, including the text that it contains, should demonstrate that care has been taken to ensure high ethical and professional standards.
  8. Name of journal: The Journal name should be unique and not be one that is easily confused with another journal or that might mislead potential authors and readers about the Journal’s origin or association with other journals.
  9. Conflicts of interest: A journal should have unambiguous policies on handling potential conflicts of interest of editors, authors, and reviewers and the policies should be clearly stated and visible on the journal’s web site.
  10. Access: The way(s) in which the journal and individual articles are available to readers and whether there are associated subscription or pay per view fees should be clearly stated.
  11. Publishing schedule: The periodicity at which a journal publishes should be clearly indicated.
  12. Direct marketing: Any direct marketing activities, including solicitation of manuscripts that are conducted on behalf of the journal, should be appropriate, well targeted, and unobtrusive.

From Principles of Transparency and Best Practices in Scholarly Publishing.

Additional Readings on Journal Quality


Think. Check. Submit

think check submit logo

A coalition of scholarly publishers and associations collaborated to create this Think Check Submit short checklist for authors to refer to when evaluating a journal as a possible place of publication for his research. By asking a few short questions and evaluating the journal according to the checklist, authors can be assured that the journal they are considering, whether subscription based or open access, will be one of quality, rigor, and respect.


Think: Ask yourself, can you trust this journal with your research? Does the journal publish research you would read yourself?

Check: Is the organization or publisher of the journal identifiable? Can you contact them easily?

For journals with publication fees (color charges, Open Access) – are the fees clearly listed on the publisher’s website? Reputable publishers should list their fees clearly and publicly.

Do you know the names or reputations of any of the editorial board members?

Are the articles indexed in services you use within your subject area?

Submit: If you can answer yes to these questions, then submit!

Explanation of Manuscript Versions

Publishers often make distinctions between three primary versions of a manuscript when detailing the archive or deposit rights retained by authors: the pre-print, the post-print and the publishers version.

Pre-print – A pre-print is the original version of the manuscript as it is submitted to a journal. While the authors may have sought help from their colleagues in selecting data analysis techniques, improving manuscript clarity, and correcting grammar, the pre-print has not been through a process of peer review. It is typically the word processor version of the manuscript with minimal formatting.

Post-print – A post-print is a document that has been through the peer review process and incorporates reviewers’ comments. It is the final version of the paper before it is formally published by the journal. It may be missing a final copy-edit and won’t be formatted/paginated with the look and feel of the journal. Sometimes, the term “pre-print” is used interchangeably with “post-print,” but when it comes to permissions issues, it is important to clarify which version of a manuscript is being discussed so that the author does not improperly archive or post a version not permitted by journal policy.

Publisher’s version/PDF – This is the version of record that is published on the publishers website. It will look quite spiffy, having been professionally typeset by the publisher. Library databases will link to this version of the paper.

Generally speaking, publishers are more likely to be okay with authors posting copies of pre-print versus other manuscript versions. But each journal is different, and authors need to be aware of what they can do. The copyright transfer agreement, which is the agreement the author signs with the publisher often upon acceptance of the manuscript for publication, is the best place to find this information. It is important to retain copies of these agreements in your records.

From: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/information-culture/2013/12/16/understanding-your-rights-pre-prints-post-prints-and-publisher-versions/

Maintaining Your Rights as Author

When publishing your work, you will usually be presented with a contract or copyright transfer agreement drafted by the publisher. Many of these publisher drafted agreements transfer copyright fully to the publisher thereby restricting an author’s subsequent usage of his or her published work, including resuse of the work in teaching and further research.  After transferring copyright to the publisher, the author generally has little say in how the work is later used. The result, all too often, is that contracts restrict the dissemination of one’s scholarship and lessen one’s impact as an author. By transferring copyright to the publisher, these agreements restrict an author from including the published work:

  • on course websites
  • in a coursepack
  • in scholarly presentations
  • on the author’s personal web page
  • and in open access repositories such as the IR@UF.

Accordingly, authors should take care to assign the rights to their work in a manner that permits them and their students and colleagues to use their work in teaching, research and other purposes. Transferring copyright doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Publishers only need the right of first publication, not a wholesale transfer of copyright. So, a compromise is often desirable, which authors can accomplish by amending the language of the copyright agreement or by offering the publisher an addendum such as the one prepared by SPARC.

SHERPA/RoMEO collects information about publisher policies related to online sharing (“archiving”) of works published in most journals. Journals and publishers are classified according to a color scheme (see below) that relate to the archive rights that authors retain. Authors are encouraged to research the policies of journals they have published in or are considering submitting a manuscript to in order to ascertain what rights in that work they will retain. Authors who wish to reuse or post online a copy of their articles will want to look for journals classified as green or blue, then check on any additional restrictions.

ROMEO Color Archiving Policy
 Green Can archive pre-print and post-print or publisher’s version/PDF
 Blue Can archive post-print (i.e. final draft post-refereeing) or publisher’s version/PDF
Yellow Can archive pre-print (i.e. pre-refereeing)
 White Archiving not formally supported