Choosing the right journal for your work

It may be tempting to begin writing a paper before giving much thought to where it might be published. However we explain here the importance of choosing the right journal for your work first and the key factors to consider.

If you are an early career researcher you may find our PDF guides (available in both English and Chinese) helpful.

It may be tempting to begin writing a paper before giving much thought to where it might be published. However, choosing a journal to target before you begin to prepare your paper will enable you to tailor your writing to the journal’s audience. It will also enable you to format your paper according to any specific guidelines, which you may find on the journal’s website. This may save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. Some of the key factors to consider when trying to choose the right journal for your work are:

Peer review service

Peer review is considered a stamp of quality from the research community. It is important to consider whether a journal is published by a reputable and trustworthy publisher who provides a rigorous peer review service (as IOP Publishing does for all its journals). If fast publication is important to you, you may also wish to check with the publisher the publication times for the journal you are considering.

Relevance/audience

You should browse published articles in the journal to establish whether the journal publishes similar papers to the one you are preparing. Check whether your peers publish in the journal. It may also help to review the make-up of the Editorial Board to see if it contains senior researchers in your field.

Scope

The scope may be found on the journal homepage. It is important to consider whether your work fits within the scientific scope of the journal and the topics covered. Also consider whether the journal is broad in its scope or a specialist journal read mainly by a particular community, as this will affect the way that you write your paper. Another consideration is the article types the journal publishes. For example, some work is best suited to the shorter ‘Letter’ format, while other work may suit the longer ‘Paper’ format.

Reputation/quality level

You should consider the reputation of the journal in its field and whether it is considered to be of high quality. Also, you should think about whether it is widely read by your peers. Reputation is often based on impact factor, which is a measure of the average citations of papers published in the journal. High impact factor journals may have high rejection rates, so in choosing a suitable journal you should consider just how novel/significant your research findings are.

Indexing

You should check whether the journal is indexed in the major online databases such as Web of Science or Scopus (this is generally the case for all IOP journals). Indexing increases the visibility and discoverability of the work, and may indicate a trusted journal. For our journals, this information can be found under ‘Abstracted in’ on the journal homepages.

Language requirements

Most international journals publish papers written in English. You should consider the language requirements of the journal, and whether you will need to have your paper checked by a native English speaker to ensure that it is understandable. IOP journals offer authors a language editing service.

Cost

The journal website should inform you of any fees that you may be charged, and you should consider whether your institution or funder will be able to cover the charge if there is one. For example, charges may apply for colour figures or for publishing your paper on a (gold) open access basis.

Publishing model: open access or subscription?

The cost of publishing a paper can be paid for in a number of ways. Traditionally, libraries and other institutions pay a subscription fee to receive individual journals or collections of titles for their researchers. This is known as the subscription model and, as an author, you usually do not have to pay a fee to publish a paper in a subscription journal. You may however incur a page charge for some journals or be charged for colour figures.

The (gold) open access publishing model allows published papers to be freely available for anyone to read. This means that authors, research institutions or funding organizations may fund the costs of publishing. In return, authors ensure that everyone can access their work. If you wish to submit for (gold) open access publication (most journals published by IOP Publishing offer this option) always check with your institution to ensure that there are funds available to cover the article publication charges.

If we receive an article that is not quite right for a journal, our Editors work with you to help find a more suitable home for your research. We will assess your article to see if it is meets the requirements for a different IOP Publishing journal and if it does, we will offer you the chance to transfer your article to the selected journal(s).

Benefits of transferring to another IOP Publishing journal

  • For authors – transferring your manuscript can save you time as you do not need to complete a new submission elsewhere. As previous reviews can also be transferred, and the same reviewers used again, the time to acceptance can be shorter for transferred articles.
  • For reviewers – transferring reports means that no review is a wasted effort: a decision can be made by the Editors using the existing reviews, removing the need to restart the entire peer review process again.

Our Editors have an expert knowledge of the requirements for each journal we publish. As a result, we only offer a transfer if we know the article has the potential to be published by another IOP Publishing journal. If you do not want to transfer to the selected journal(s), you can simply decline the offer and can then submit your work elsewhere. The choice is entirely yours.

I’ve been offered a transfer: what happens next?

  1. You need to decide whether you want to accept the transfer offer. The email we sent you will contain information about the journal(s) we have suggested, and we recommend you visit the ‘About the Journal’ information on our website to help make your decision.
  2. If you would like to accept the offer, the article, along with all relevant submission information and reviewer reports (if present), will be transferred to the new journal by the IOP Editor.
  3. The Editor on your chosen journal will then do one of two things, which depend on whether we have already received reviewer reports or not. They will either:
    • send it for peer review
    • allow you to revise the manuscript based on the existing reviewer comments
  4. Once the reviewer reports or revisions have been received, the Editor makes a final decision on the manuscript.

It’s important to note: a transfer is not a guarantee of acceptance. The Editor on the new journal may decide that the article needs further rounds of review to ensure suitability for the journal.