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Measures of quality and esteem
Is the journal peer reviewed?
Scholarly journals are usually published by and for experts. In order to publish in a scholarly journal, an article must first pass through a peer review process in which a group of experts in the field reviews the article for content, scholarly soundness and academic value. This review process helps ensure that articles reflect solid scholarship in their fields.
Keep in mind that not all articles published in refereed journals are themselves refereed. Examples of non-refereed articles include editorials, letters, opinion pieces, conference reports.
To check if a journal is peer reviewed:
- UlrichsWeb - Ulrich's provides a range of information on journal titles, including bibliographic information, indexing and abstracting sources of individual titles, costs, frequency, language, URLs and also indicates if the serial title is refereed. Refereed journals are identified by the referee's jacket which appears next to journal titles in the Results List.
- ERA Journal List - contact your Senior Research Librarian for access to the ERA Journal List.
Does the journal have an impact factor?
The journal impact factor is:
... a measure of the frequency with which the "average article" in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period. .. the impact factor of a journal is calculated by dividing the number of current year citations to the source items published in that journal during the previous two years. (The Thomson Reuters Impact Factor)
Where to find journal impact factors:
- Journal Citation Reports (JCR) - Summarises citations from science and social science journals and proceedings in the Web of Science database, delivering detailed reports of their citation performance, their citation network, and the count and type of materials published.
It is important to understand the limitation and biases of the impact factor when evaluating journal quality, including:
- JCR indexes a small percentage of international scholarly journals - there is a strong bias towards English language, STEM and North American publications.
- Small number of journals included by Australian publishers
- The impact factor is a measure of journal quality - it cannot be used to assess the quality of individual articles
- The impact factor is calculated based on 'citable' items only (excludes editorials, news items, etc
- Certain types of articles - for example, review articles - attract more citations.
What is the SJR rank of the journal?
SJR (Scimago Journal Rank) is a prestige metric based on the idea that ‘all citations are not created equal’. With SJR, the subject field, quality and reputation of the journal has a direct effect on the value of a citation.
SJR ranks can be found:
Is the journal included on the ERA Journal List?
The ERA Journal List is updated for each new ERA exercise. Journals included on the list must meet the following criteria:
- publish original peer reviewed research;
- have one or more ISSNs;
- were active during the ERA 2015 reference period for research outputs.
The 2023 ERA Journal List will be available shortly.
Is the publisher of the journal a member of a recognised professional association committed to best practice in publishing?
Is the journal included on a discipline ranking list?
- ABDC Journal Quality List - Produced by the Australian Business Deans Council, the list includes over 2700 journals, divided into four categories of quality, A*: 6.9%; A: 20.8%; B: 28.4%; and C: 43.9% journals. In each Field of Research (FoR) group, journals deemed NOT to reach the quality threshold level are not listed.
- A report into methodologies underpinning Australian law journal rankings - Prepared for the Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD)
- Journal Quality List (57th edition - 2016) - prepared by Prof Anne-Wil Harzing this list includes journals in the broad subject categories of economics, finance, accounting, management and marketing compiled from 18 different rankings of more than 900 journals.
- ERIH Plus - European Reference Index for the Humanities and the Social Sciences
- APSA Preferred Journal List - produced by the Australian Political Studies Association. The 2016 list includes rankings (A*,A, B, C) for over 600 journals in the FOR codes 1606 and 1605.
- CORE Rankings Portal - Computer Research and Education Association of Australia is an association of university departments of computer science in Australia and New Zealand. Rankings (A*,A, B, C) are searchable for journals and conferences.
Does the publisher display unethical or deceptive practices?
Rick Anderson (1) identifies 4 major types of deceptive publishing:
- Phony journals: journals that falsely claim to offer articles based on legitimate and dispassionate scientific or scholarly inquiry.
- Pseudo-scholarly journals: journals that falsely claim to offer authors real and meaningful editorial services (usually including peer review) and/or credible impact credentialing (usually in the form of an Impact Factor), and thereby also falsely claim to offer readers rigorously vetted scientific or scholarly content.
- False-flag journals: scam operators that set up websites designed to trick the unwary into believing that they are submitting their work to legitimate existing journals—sometimes by “hijacking” the exact title of the real journal, and sometimes by concocting a new title that varies from the legitimate one only very slightly.
- Masqueraders: This looks like a variety of hijacking, except that there is no actual hijackee. In these cases, journals adopt titles designed to imply affiliation with a legitimate- and prestigious-sounding scholarly or scientific organization that does not actually exist.
Jocalyn Clark (2) recommends the following points to consider when evaluating a journal or publisher:
If the journal is claiming to be open access, is it listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)? All journals listed in DOAJ must meet specific criteria, covering the quality and transparency of the editorial process, and openness of the journal.
- Is the publisher a member of recognised professional organisations that commit to best practices in publishing, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE); the International Association of Scientific, Technical, & Medical Publishers (STM); or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)?
- Is the journal indexed? Do not accept the journal’s claims about being indexed. Instead verify these claims by checking in UlrichsWeb ('Abstracting and Indexing' tab), or directly at one of the journal databases.
- Is the journal transparent and following best practices when it comes to editorial and peer review processes, governance, and ownership? Are there contact details for the journal and its staff (email, postal address, working telephone number)? Reputable journals have a named editor and editorial board comprised of recognised experts. Are the costs associated with publishing clear? Credible journals do not ask for a submission fee. Many bona fide open access journals require a publication charge, but this is levied after acceptance and through a process separate from the editorial process.
1. Anderson, Rick. (2015). Deceptive Publishing: Why We Need a Blacklist, and Some Suggestions on How to Do It Right. The Scholary Kitchen, August 17th.
2. Clark, Jocelyn. (2015). How to avoid predatory journals—a five point plan. BMJ Blog 15 January 2015