Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the best journal of them all?

Selecting a target journal for research work is one of the toughest initial steps of the publishing process. At our Charlesworth Knowledge workshops, we recommend that you always have a journal in mind for your initial submission before you start to write; this is because each outlet has a different target audience and readership as well as formatting requirements, style, and voice. This advice is based on experience: most successful publishing researchers and academics don’t sit down to write without first knowing where their papers are going to be sent.


At our workshops, which can be booked via institutions, we suggest three steps for successful journal selection:


Rule 1: Aim high


Rule 2: Choose appropriately


Rule 3: Learn to sell and manage your submission


Everyone wants to see their research published in the best possible places; so, aim high. Make a list of the top ten journals in your field and rank them by impact factor. Always try to start your manuscript submission process by aiming for better journals first. This is what I learned from my supervisor when working as a PhD student.


At the same time, however, it’s important to choose appropriately so as not to waste time. Not every paper you write will be suitable for those higher profile journals. Talk to your colleagues, your supervisors, and your peers with more publishing experience to determine the most appropriate starting journal for each submission. At Charlesworth Knowledge we can help, both with journal selection and managing the submission process, as well as selling the message of your study to editors and reviewers.


Most researchers I interact with are also concerned with publication fees. As publishing academics, we face a choice these days between paying article processing charges (APCs) to place our work in open access (OA) outlets or submitting our manuscripts to journals with content that might lie behind paywalls. In the latter case, unless access is provided by an institutional or personal subscription package, work might not be subsequently available or easy to access for all. This is one of the central current dilemmas of academic publishing.


One trend in the journal publishing industry at the moment has been the appearance of so-called ‘mirror journals’. These outlets sit alongside more established titles and provide an alternative, open-access publishing option for authors, albeit often with a payment. In this way, research publications can be associated with better known high-profile titles but satisfy an author’s desire for his/her work to be fully open access, with data and content accessible to all. The success of this new suite of journals remains unclear; from my point-of-view as an active research author, although potentially attractive from an open access perspective, ‘mirror journals’ might lack the established reputation and hence impact factors of their older and better known ‘reflections’. Authors working in many parts of the world still care, above all, about the status, the impact factor, of their target journal. Although we are often warned to prepare for a world without such factors, we are not there yet; many universities and national research councils still assess academics based on these criteria.


Our services at The Charlesworth Group are agnostic to publishing models; we provide impartial advice, manuscript polishing, and journal selection services to authors that are aimed at maximising the potential of submitted papers. We can help you polish and place your work in the best possible journals, thereby enhancing your career as a researcher.

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