Last month we brought you the first installment of our new blog series, “Getting Published.” We discussed how to choose the right journal for your manuscript. Now let’s narrow down your journal options. Whichever journal you eventually decide upon, you want to make sure the scope of the journal fits with the theme or main points of your paper.
A journal’s scope is just that: it is the journal’s reach, or the type of information one might expect to find when reading its issues. Let’s take a look at some scope statements from various journals:
“Teaching and Learning in Medicine…Its international scope reflects the common challenge faced by all medical educators: fostering the development of capable, well-rounded, and continuous learners prepared to practice in a complex, high-stakes, and ever-changing clinical environment…TLM’s scope includes all levels of medical education, from premedical to postgraduate and continuing medical education…”
“Medical Teacher addresses the needs of teachers and administrators throughout the world involved in training for the health professions…
“Medical Teacher provides accounts of new teaching methods, guidance on structuring courses and assessing achievement, and serves as a forum for communication between medical teachers and those involved in general education…The journal features reports of innovation and research in medical education, case studies, survey articles, practical guidelines, reviews of current literature and book reviews. All articles are peer reviewed.
Reading these statements gives authors a good understanding of the types of manuscripts the journal is looking to accept.
The best way to find out the scope of a particular journal is by going to the journal’s website. There are a few ways of finding a journal’s website. You can Google the journal name and find the website that way; you can go the health sciences library’s e-journals page (for journals to which the library subscribes); or you can use the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) journal database. Last month we looked at how to use the NLM catalog to find journals on a particular topic. Most journal entries in the NLM catalog will also contain a link to the journal’s website.
So now you’ve reached your journal’s website. What should you look for next to determine the journal’s scope? Often a journal website will have a dedicated page called “About,” or “About This Journal.” Here, or possibly as it’s own link on the main page, you will likely find a link to “Scope,” “Aims and Scope,” or “Mission.”
If you don’t see anything called “Scope,” or “Aims,” etc., try the link that says “For Authors,” or “Authors.” We will be talking more about what to look for under the author’s page for a particular journal in the next part of our “Getting Published” series. Sometimes information about a journal’s scope is located on the page dedicated to prospective authors. Look for an “About” statement here.
Once you’ve read the scope statement, ask yourself: “Does this fit with my paper?” “Is this the type of paper this journal is looking for?” If the answer is yes, you can move on with editing your paper according to the journal’s author guidelines, which we will look at next time. If the answer is no, it’s time to look at a different journal.
Below are some links to the scope pages of popular medical education and internal medicine journals:
Annals of Internal Medicine
The American Journal of Medicine
The Clinical Teacher
JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
Teaching and Learning in Medicine
Once you’ve explored a couple of journal websites, it will become increasingly easier to locate information about a particular journal’s scope.
We’ve now discussed three ways to narrow down your choice of journal for your manuscript: (1) whether the journal is indexed for MEDLINE; (2) the journal’s impact factor; and (3) the scope of the journal. Hopefully these will assist you in making a determination so that you can move on to the next step – deciding whether the format of your paper fits with the journal’s submission guidelines. We’ll be taking a look at journal submission and author guidelines in our next “Getting Published” installment in March. We hope you keep reading!