4 Evaluating a Journal

When evaluating an article, it is also important to take a look at the journal it is published in. Evaluating journals is also important when you decide where you want to publish your research.

What to look at when evaluating journals:

  • Journal Impact Factor – a metric measuring how much impact a journal has
  • Journal publisher – organization or company that publishes the journal
  • Journal editorial board – the researchers who are editors for the journal

Journal Impact Factor

The Journal Impact Factor (JIF) is measure of the impact of a particular journal in its field. The Journal Impact Factor is defined as the number of citations received in an a year by articles published in that journal during the two preceding years, divided by the total number of “citable items” published in that journal during the two preceding years.


2018 Impact Factor = A/B

A = the number of times articles published in 2016 and 2017 were cited during 2018
B = the total number of “citable items” published in 2016 and 2017
Finding Impact Factor

Journal Impact Factors can be found in the Clarivate Analytics Journal Citation Report. You can search by journal title or browse by subject area


Journal Citation Reports homepage search. Search by title or browse by category
Journal Citation Reports homepage
Screenshot of Journal Citatio Reports showing a list of physics journals by impact factor
List of journals in the Physics, Multidisciplinary category, sorted by Journal Impact Factor
  • Impact Factor is comparable only for journals in the same field, you can’t compare impact factors between categories on Journal Citation Reports
  • Journals with a general focus have higher Journal Impact Factors than journals with a specialized focus (ie Nature has 2019 JIF of 42.8, while Nature Astronomy has a 2019 JIF of 11. 5)
  • Impact Factor is higher for review journals, as review articles get more citations than regular articles (5 out of 6 high impact journals in the image above are review journals)
  • Journals can “game the system” to increase their Impact Factor (i.e. increasing journal self-citations or publishing more “non-citable items” that still get citations)

The Journal Impact Factor is useful to get an understanding of the importance and impact of a journal in it’s field, but it is not a measure of quality and it is not the only factor you should consider when evaluating a journal. A journal with a higher Impact Factor is not necessarily “better” than a journal with a lower Impact Factor.

Journal Publisher

Many journals are published by large academic publishers (like Elsevier or Springer Nature) or by research societies and professional organizations. Look for journals published by societies or organizations that are important to your field.

Be cautious of journals published by organizations or publishers you have never heard of. When in doubt, look up the publisher.

Journal Editorial Board

The editorial board of a journal is made up of researchers relevant to that journal. When evaluating a journal, take a look at the editorial board to see if it includes any researchers whose names or reputations you recognize.



Think. Check. Submit

Think. Check. Submit. is a resource that can help you evaluate journals when your publishing research. Use their checklist to evaluate a journal, or watch the video below:



What about Predatory Publishers

It is also useful to evaluate journals to avoid predatory publishers

We’ll cover predatory publishing in Section II



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Advanced Library Skills for Physics Research by Lauren Stieglitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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