How to Target your research at High-Impact Journals


What is a ‘high impact’ journal? 

In academic publishing, ‘aiming high’ means selecting a target journal with the best possible impact factor. This impact, at least in a publishing sense, is a measure of readership: the number of other researchers your article will reach once published. Journals with wider circulations therefore have higher impact factors; those that have just been launched or are read by fewer researchers internationally will have lower impact factors. Watch out for this: you won’t want to publish your research in a journal unless it does have an impact factor. Checking a journal’s ranking is one way to identify and avoid predatory publishers.


Aim high, shoot for the stars, but choose appropriately


Researchers around the world all want the same things: To publish as many papers as possible, in the best journals possible, as quickly as possible. Competition for higher impact factor journals is intense; big journals like Nature and Science have very high rejection rates, up to 90% or higher in many cases. Nine of out ten submitted manuscripts will be turned away by the editor before even reaching peer review. Journal selection is therefore a critical initial step of the research publishing process: many successful academics don’t start to write until they have selected a target journal as this step provides both the target audience and structure for their work.


Simple steps to targeting your research at high impact factor journals

  • Make yourself aware of the journals in your field that successful academics use.
  • Learn about the journals in your field with higher impact factors.
  • Use simple, effective English and a clear structure to get your message across.
  • Learn from Charlesworth how to sell the message of your papers so that editors of high impact journals will find your work interesting for their readers.


What are the key journals in your field?


As an informed researcher, you’ll be aware of the key international researchers in your field. You know which academics are leading in your area because you read and use their papers in your own work. Take a look at the reference lists of a handful of recent key articles in your field to check which journals are most important for other researchers. These are your targets: outlets to investigate and add to your list of possible journals to use when writing up your own work.


One of the best tips out there for effective paper writing is to see how other, effective academics in your field structure their papers as well as which journals they are choosing when making submissions. We recommend that you make a list of five-to-ten journals where you’d like to publish your work. Find examples of papers close to your own research area that have recently appeared in these outlets and check them to see how the key message in each case is sold: you do this by looking carefully at their choice of titles and how their abstracts are put together.


What is your research story? 


The key trick to master if you are going to "sell" your papers to high impact factor journals is making them interesting to wide pools of readers. Editors at leading publications are looking for papers that capture people’s interest in order to sell journals.


You can do this by thinking about the wider context of your research:

  • How does your work relate to a current ‘hot topic’?
  • What’s the truly original nature of your results?
  • How and why is your work new and interesting?
  • What’s new and challenging about the outcomes of your study?
  • Are you providing a solution to a difficult problem?


Selling papers to high impact factor journals is all about the story you are selling, so try to write this down in one or two sentences before you begin to put the rest of your article together. This technique, by the way, will also help you to come up with an effective title for your next article. Use as few words as possible: research has shown that highly cited articles in leading journals tend to have shorter titles, less than seven words if possible. Shorter is better in English writing if you want to be effective and get your message across. 'Brevity is the soul of wit', as Shakespeare said.

How to aim high in article evaluation

Aim high when submitting your articles to international journals, as we have discussed. With your message in place, aim for the best journal on your impact factor ranked list. Celebrate if you get sent out for review: the article evaluation process is gruelling for most academics and so few take the time to celebrate their achievements at each step of the process. Getting an article sent out for peer review in a leading international journal is a big achievement, bearing in mind that around nine of out ten will be rejected by a desk editor.

How to deal with article rejection

Another key skill to master when targeting articles to high impact factor journals is rejection. Rejection happens all the time to academic authors. Don’t lose heart. Take on board the positive comments that come back from editors and peer reviewers, and use them to enhance and augment your draft before re-working and re-submitting to the next journal on your list.


You will get your work published in leading international journals if:

  • You’ve picked an important research question, and;
  • You’ve used an appropriate method to address that question.

How can we help?

We can help at Charlesworth Author Services to ensure that your language is effective, tight and precise in order to get your message across to editors, peer reviewers and readers. We offer a range of expert editing services at Charlesworth; our team of PhD-level specialists will edit your work, improve the language and make informed suggestions about the best places to publish, providing an informed list of up to five possible target journals to maximise your impact. You can also avail of our expert consultancy services to work one-on-one with an editor who can answer any questions you may have and enhance your English writing skills.


Charlesworth Author Services also provide a range of training courses and workshops (booked via institutions). Our education team can help you understand how to message your papers and target high impact international outlets to maximise your research and publishing career. Our academic writing and publishing training courses, online materials and blog articles are packed with useful tips and tricks to help you navigate the choppy waters of journal selection, academic writing and publishing.


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