Skip to Main Content

Publishing Resources for STEM Authors: Where to Publish?

A guide with resources to accompany the workshops on publishing for gradute students and post-doctoral researchers.

Deciding where to publish

There are numerous considerations in deciding where to publish your research. These may include:

  • What type of paper you want to publish?
  • What journal is the best fit for the topic of your paper?
  • How urgent is it to get the paper published?
  • How to maximize the readership of your paper?
  • How to maximize the impact of your paper?
  • Do you have funding for author processing charges (APC)?

This page will help you find answers to these questions.

What type of paper do you want to publish?

Different journals specialize in different types of articles:

  • Brief communications - Generally shorter, 2 pages or less, often with preliminary research.
  • Full research articles - Longer papers of original research, with introduction, experimental/computational sections, results, discussion and conclusions.
  • Review articles - These are reviews/summaries/analyses of the literature on a particular topic, rather than original research. Often they cover a specific time range. Frequently, review articles are solicited by the editor of a journal rather than being written and submitted cold.
  • Meta analyses - Share the statistical results of analyzing numerous publications on the same topic to answer research questions. 
  • Some journals publish mixture of these types.

How to determine if a given journal publishes the kind of article you have in mind:

  • Examine a few issues of the journal. Usually a look at the table of contents will give you a good idea of what kinds of articles are being published.
  • Read the mission statement of the journal.  This will give you an idea of the kinds of articles accepted, as well as the topics published.
  • Read the Instructions to Authors for the journal. Usually these will specify what is accepted. See the Instructions for Authors page in this guide for lists of the author instructions from most major journal publishers.

How fast do you want to publish?

Some considerations on speed of publishing:

  • If you want to get an idea of the time between submission and publication for a journal, just take a look at a few issues. Most online journals give both the submission and publication date of the article.  Short communications are usually published more rapidly than full research articles.
  • Many online journals post articles soon as they are ready for publication, before a full issue has been assembled. Different publishers refer to these articles in different ways, but they are usually not hard to spot.
  • The quickest way to get your research out to the public these days is by submitting it to the preprint server in your field, because preprints to not go through pre-publication peer review. See the Preprints page in this guide for lists of preprint servers by discipline. In some disciplines, notably most areas of physics, publication on a preprint server (arXiv) is routine. Note that if you want to publish your article later in a refereed journal, that journal policies differ widely on whether they will accept an article which has already appeared in a preprint server. Check before you act!
  • Remember that if your research could lead to a patentable invention, you may need to submit your patent application BEFORE you publish your results in a journal. In the United States, you have one year after a publication appears to file for a patent, but in other countries, ANY previous publication will prevent the issuance of a patent. If you're not sure what to do, check with the UCSB Office of Technology and Industry Alliance if you are a UCSB researcher. Remember, too, that any patents you create while on University time are automatically assigned to the UC Regents!

Finding the right journal for your topic

Picking a journal that best matches your topic is key both to getting your article accepted, and to getting it into the hands of your desired audience. Some ways to find a good choice:

  • Go to the journals that your advisor/co-authors/other researchers you work with publish in. These are likely the best bets for your paper.
  • Look at the journals where prominent authors in your field publish. Go to Web of Science or an appropriate database in your subject and do an author search for researchers you know are working in your field and see where they publish.
  • If you're venturing into a new area of research, try doing a topic search in Web of Science or an appropriate subject-specific database. You may want to limit your search to recent years, depending on how quickly your discipline is changing. Look at the Refine or Filter options for your answer set. There will usually be an option for "Publication Title" or "Journal Title" that will let you see an ordered list of the journals that appear most frequently in your answer set.
  • Go to Journal Citation Reports (see the Evaluating Impact page in this guide). You can browse journals there by Subject Category to get ideas of possible candidates for your submission. The journal records in JCR will tell you a lot about how many articles the journal publishes per year, the open access status of the journal, the journal impact factor, and other metrics. Note that the subject categories in JCR and WoS are fairly broad, and that neither source attempts to comprehensively index every journal in their field.
  • If you are particularly interested in publishing in fully open access journals, go to the Directory of Open Access Journals. 
  • Clarivate's EndNote reference management system (including the free EndNote online service) offers an option called Manuscript Matcher to input the title, or abstract or entire manuscript of your article and it will return a list of up to 110 recommended journals along with a "Match Score" for each, the JCR Impact Factor for the journal, other journal information, and a link that will take you to the online manuscript submission page for the journal and let you submit your manuscript directly.  Note that the Matcher only searches journals listed in Web of Science/Journal Citation Reports. For more information see Manuscript Matcher Support.

Open Access (OA) considerations

Studies show, unsurprisingly, that articles published Open Access, that is, not requiring a subscription to read, are more heavily read and more frequently cited than articles "behind the paywall", all other things being equal. Here are some considerations:

  • If you believe in the concept of Open Science, then you definitely want to publish Open Access. You also want to make your data open (by depositing in an appropriate repository) and use/create Open Software and Open Source Code.
  • Also, if you wish to retain some or all of your author's rights to your article, you want to go OA. However, check the specific policies of the journal, as these vary widely.
  • Remember that you can make your article open either by publishing them with an open access journal or preprint server, in a hybrid journal specifying that you want to go open access, or by depositing a copy of your manuscript in an appropriate repository, such as eScholarship.
  • If you're not sure what the OA policies of a particular journal are, look at their Instructions for Authors or equivalent.  If you're trying to find a suitable OA journal, Journal Citation Reports provides open access statistics for journals, and the Directory of Open Access Journals lists worldwide fully open access journals that meet their standards.
  • With few exception, journals which publish OA articles require an Author Processing Charge (APC) These can vary from a few hundred dollars to may thousands of dollars. If you think this may be a problem, your funding =grant may include money to pay for APCs - be sure to check! Also, be sure to check whether the University of California has a "transformative agreement" with the publisher you are interested in. These vary quite a bit, but in general, they turn the money formerly paid by UC libraries for subscriptions into full or partial support for UC authors' APCs. See our Transformative Open Access Agreements page for more information, and a list of publishers with whom we currently have agreements. If you don't have funding, you may be eligible for support from the UCSB Open Access Publishing Fund.  See the Article Processing Charge Support page for more details. Finally, the DOAJ will allow you to limit your journal search to journals with no APC if you're looking for an opportunity to publish OA for free (sometimes referred to as "platinum" open access).
  • See also the Open Access page in this guide.

Predatory journals

The rise of journals with APCs has opened the door for unscrupulous publishers to spring up, create promising sounding phony journals, and skim money away from unsuspecting authors.  These are called "predatory journals".

Predatory Journals/predatory publishing - This term refers to journals with no scholarly credentials, created solely to leech APC money from authors desperate for a publication venue.  How to decide which journals are predatory, and who gets to decide have, been matters of controversy. See this article for more discussion:  "Predatory journals: no definition, no defence", Nature 576, 210-212 (2019)

In the absence of a definitive list of predatory journals, how can you avoid them? Journals published by the well-known scholarly societies in your field are safe, as are those published by major commercial publishers. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) carefully scrutinizes all journals applying for addition to their lists - if a journal is listed in DOAJ, you can be sure it's safe.

Login to LibApps