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Choosing a journal: the impact factor

Filed on: May 8, 2009 | Written by Yateendra Joshi | 1 comment

How do you choose the journal to which you’d like to submit the research paper you have either written or plan to write? Although most researchers would like their papers to appear in prestigious journals, these journals are known for their high “rejection rates,” that is, the more reputed journals reject most of the papers they receive and publish only a few. As a savvy researcher, you know that while it is better to be published in a more prestigious journal than in a less prestigious one, not being published at all is worse.  

What is a prestigious journal?

One measure of prestige is the journal’s impact factor. If a journal has a high impact factor, it means that papers published in that journal are, on average, cited more often than those published in other journals (those with lower impact factors). More specifically, the impact factor of a journal for a given year – yes, the impact factor of a journal can change from year to year – is the number of times any paper published in that journal has been cited divided by the total number of citable items published in the journal. For example, the impact factor of journal XYZ for 2008 is calculated as follows:

Impact factor for journal XYZ for 2008 = (Number of citations in 2006 and 2007 to papers published in XYZ)/(Total number of papers published in XYZ in 2006 and 2007). One of the most prestigious scientific journals is Nature; its impact factor for 2008 was 28.751. Nearly 75% of the journals, however, have an impact factor less than 1.0. While choosing a journal to be published in as a researcher, you need to consider other factors as well. Journals that are published more frequently, for instance, are likely to publish your paper sooner than those that appear less frequently. And if your research has a regional focus, you should consider journals published from that region. I'll discussing these matters in greater detail in future blogs.    

["Publish and prosper" is a series of posts about tips for researchers whose first language is not English but who submit papers to journals published in English. The series touches upon not only writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation, usage, and style) but everything else relevant to publishing research papers that journal editors wish their authors knew.]