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Understanding the Scope of a scientific journal for better journal selection

As an author of research papers, targeting the right journal is very important. You may have conducted elegant and ground-breaking research, and written a masterpiece of an article, but it must be placed in the proper vehicle to ensure it obtains maximal impact upon the ideal target audience. One of the best ways to determine the best journal for your work is to understand the scope (also known as aim or focus) of scientific journals.

Significance of the journal scope

Journals take pains to be very clear about their scope. After all, it’s in their self-interest to do so. While academic journals receive increasing submissions each year, their annual editorial budgets, editorial office personnel and available peer reviewers typically do not keep pace. In their effort to be as efficient as possible in the face of increased submissions, journal editorial offices prefer to receive papers that specifically target their scope. As an author who has done your homework and submits to a highly appropriate journal, you will help journals focus more on reviewing potential contributions rather than filtering out inappropriate or mis-targeted submissions.

Some research of the items mentioned below will enable you to gain a better understanding of the aim or focus of scientific journals. Here are key things to look for.

1. Review the table of contents of the last 12 months of the journal

Studying what the journal publishes, in terms of both topics and types of articles, will help clue you into the audience being reached. Ask yourself:

Does your research manuscript fit into the body of research that has been recently published?

2. Look up the publisher information on its journal titles

If your target journal is published by a major publishing house, research what that publisher says about the journal, its readers, etc. Ask yourself:

If the publisher has multiple journals on related topics, where does your target journal rank in their stable of titles?

3. Go through the journal’s website 

Scientific journals will have dedicated menu pages on ‘Journal Information’, as well as detailed Information for Authors (IFA). These pages will provide you with a great deal of information about the journal, its parent society (if applicable) and also editorial board members. You will quickly be able to discern the longevity, specific audience and leadership composition of the journal.

4. Visit the journal’s social media page(s)

Nearly every journal will have some sort of social media (SM) presence, and you will be able to glean a great deal about a journal from them.

Is your target journal on a number of SM platforms?

Are those platforms updated regularly, and do they boast significant interactivity and traffic from readers?

Is their SM reach primarily to a national audience or a global community?

Is the journal and SM content targeted primarily to middle- or peak-career level researchers, or are early-career researchers (ECRs) involved as well?

5. Look into the journal’s citations and metrics

A final avenue of inquiry into a journal’s aim can be found in its metrics. There are a number of bibliometric indicators that focus on and measure the impact of scholarly journals found in two primary databases: Web of Science (found in Journal Citation Reports) and SCOPUS. Bibliographic metrics on those two databases show a variety of data points, such as:

  • Impact factor (IF)
  • Five-year IF
  • Immediacy index
  • Article Influence scores
  • Google Scholar metrics

You’ll be able to determine what articles have been cited most frequently. Using the AltMetric database (note that this is a propriety term, in contrast to the generic term altmetrics), you will be able to determine a journal’s involvement in scholarly conversations and media coverage. 


As an author, you owe it to yourself to position your research in the journal whose focus will enable you to reach your ideal audience. Abundant online tools exist to help you do just that. With a little effort, you’ll quickly know the best journal for your submissions. The time you spend in researching your ideal target journals will be richly rewarded once your papers are accepted and published.


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