Predatory publishing: Can you tell which ‘fee charging’ academic journals are reputable?

In this era of open access publishing, it seems that more and more journals are springing up all over the place. Many of these outlets offer authors quick publications, but for a fee. Studies have shown that although most researchers do want to publish their results in open access outlets (and would like to pay as little as possible, of course) it’s sometimes hard to tell which journals are reputable and which are not.

In this context, the term ‘predatory journal’ is often associated with Jeffrey Beall from the University of Colorado who first coined the term and maintained a free-to-access list of such journals until January 2017. Beall’s list is still archived here and other updated versions of such lists can be found here and here.

A predatory journal is a publishing outlet that is purely interested in taking your money and not in properly disseminating or publishing your work. Such journals advertise widely, often over email; we’ve all seen these kinds of spam emails: “Why not consider publishing your work in our journal, for a fee of course?”. Just how to sort good journals from pure predators deserves a closer look.

Here are some key things to consider then when selecting an open access journal for your next academic article.

Have you heard of the journal before?

Have colleagues or co-workers published their research in this journal? Take care: predatory journals often deliberately give themselves names that sound a lot like their more established, mainstream counterparts.

Have you ever heard of any members of this journal’s editorial board?

Does it even have an editorial board? Any reputable journal must have an editorial board to handle submissions and make decisions about papers as well as to steer the thematic direction and scope of the outlet. Do check the editorial board of the journal you are looking at and maybe send a few quick emails to some members: it’s always a very good idea to make so-called presubmission enquiries about your papers before submitting them as this saves everyone time and energy (you and the journal). [We can provide templates for these kinds of emails: get in touch with the Charlesworth team for more information.]

Does this journal say that the papers it publishes are peer-reviewed?

It should. This is a must for any reputable academic journal.

Is this journal listed in Web of Science, ISI, PubMed, Scopus or another recognised database?

If the journal you’re looking at is not, then it is probably best to avoid.

Does this journal have an impact factor?

It’s always better to try to get your work published in journals with impact factors, if possible. At Charlesworth, we recommend making a list of journals in your field that you’d like to see your work published in, and then ranking this list from top to bottom by impact factors.

Is there an article processing charge (APC) to publish in this journal?

Many open access journals are free and many that are reputable do charge APCs. These tend to be around the $1,000+ mark for articles in most places. It is the emergence of APCs, coupled with a general lack of knowledge about what constitutes a ‘good, reputable’ journal, that has led to a rise in predatory journals.

End note

Predatory outlets are numerous and are primarily interested in taking your money, not the quality or dissemination of content.


We are here to help

If you have any questions about academic publishing or writing, why not get in touch with one of our team at Charlesworth Author Services? Our Premium Editing Service includes pre-peer review where one of our expert PhD-level editors examines your paper and provides suggestions and comments that are likely to come up in peer review. You can find out more about this service here. We also provide a Journal Selection Service for authors.

Charlesworth Knowledge academic writing and publishing training courses, online materials and blog articles contain numerous tips and tricks to help you navigate academic writing and publishing and maximise your potential as a researcher. Find out more at

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