Getting Published: Choosing the Right Journal

Getting-Published-banner2It’s a new year and perhaps your goal this year is to get that manuscript that’s been collecting virtual dust on your desktop published—finally! Figuring out where to start can be daunting. But think of it this way: the hardest part—writing the paper—is already done! So you’re already ¾ of the way there. Fear not, we are here with a new series on our blog called “Getting Published.” We’ll be here to guide you through the process of going from manuscript to publication that you can actually add to your CV.

So you have a paper written. Where do you publish it? The first decision you need to make is whether to publish in an Open Access journal or a traditional publication. For more information on Open Access, check our blog posts here and here.

If you’ve decided to go the traditional route, there are several venues you can use to find the perfect journal for you. Start with thinking about the main points of your manuscript, and if you haven’t already done so, come up with three to five keywords that best describe your paper. Once you have those, it will be easier to narrow down a journal. Let’s look at some options to find your perfect journal.


 NLM Catalog

A goal of most authors is to have their paper findable in PubMed, a database from the National Library of Medicine (NLM). PubMed is used to search MEDLINE, a biomedical bibliographic database that has over 22 million references to life sciences journal articles. It is one of the main ways those in the medical and library communities conduct their scientific literature searches. Having your paper in PubMed increases the likelihood of your work being found by your peers.

An important note: not all journals in PubMed are indexed for MEDLINE. Being indexed for MEDLINE means that reviewers at NLM have assigned key terms, or Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to articles in a particular journal. You will notice when you search PubMed that your results indicate whether a journal is indexed for MEDLINE or not. The ultimate goal, then, is to have your paper published in a journal indexed for MEDLINE.

To view a list of journals available in PubMed, you can search the NLM Catalog. At the search screen you can enter a topic, journal title or abbreviation, or ISSN. If you have your keywords ready, you can start entering them one by one to see what kinds of journals are in the NCBI database. For example, if you type in “sports,” you will (as of today) get 110 results. Use the filters on the left to narrow your results to just those journals indexed for MEDLINE.

NLM Catalog Screenshot


Information is provided for each journal found, including the NLM title abbreviation; the ISSN; whether it is print, electronic, or both; the publisher and its location, and whether or not the journal is currently indexed for MEDLINE. If a journal is Open Access, that information is also provided. You can click on the journal title for more information, including a link to the journal’s website. (Stay tuned to our “Getting Published” series for what to do if you click on that link.)

Journal Citation Reports

 InCites Journal Citation Reports (formally just Journal Citation Reports or JCR) from Thomson Reuters is a subscription database that you can access from the health sciences library’s Online Databases website. JCR is most commonly used to determine a particular journal’s “impact factor.” Impact factor is one way to rank, evaluate, or compare journals. It is the “frequency with which the ‘average article’ in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period.” Impact factor is calculated by dividing the number of citations in the current year to the number of articles published in that journal in the previous two years. Click here for a more detailed breakdown on how impact factors are calculated.

Impact factors are generally used to distinguish the crème-de-la-crème of journals in a particular field. The important thing to note is that impact factors vary widely. For example, Academic Medicine, a highly-respected journal, may have an impact factor of 3.060, while another highly-respected journal, New England Journal of Medicine, may have an impact factor of 55.873. The scope of these two journals (more on scope later in our series!) is quite different, so comparing their impact factors is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Similarly, journals in different disciplines will likely have vastly different impact factors. Again, this is just one way to narrow down which journal you should target for your manuscript. Getting your manuscript published in a “high impact” journal increases the likelihood that your paper will be cited by others (but not necessarily).

While in the JCR database, you can search by a particular journal by name or abbreviation, or by keyword. Or use the filters on the left of the screen to narrow by subject area, for example, medicine. This way you can see a ranked list of journals in a particular subject area to determine the top 5 or 10 impactful journals. You can also filter by Open Access journals.

JCR Screenshot


We’ve looked at two ways to compile a list of potential journals to which to submit your publication, the NLM Catalog and Journal Citations Reports.  Next time in our “Getting Published” series, we will look at determining the scope of a particular journal to further narrow down the best places to submit your paper.

Happy writing and good luck getting your papers published this year!



4 thoughts on “Getting Published: Choosing the Right Journal

  1. Pingback: Getting Published: Journal Scope | Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library

  2. Pingback: Getting Published: Deciphering Author Guidelines | Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library

  3. Pingback: Getting Published: The Peer Review Process | Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library

  4. Pingback: Getting Published: You’re Published…What Next? | Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library

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