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Assessing Journal Quality

Qualitative versus Quantitaive

Quantitative measures of a journal's importance like journal impact factor are not always available for many disciplines, especially the humanities.  As a result, any attempt to determine which journals in subjects like literature and philosophy are more highly regarded than others must rely on qualitative criteria.

  • An investigation of a journal's editors and editorial board members can help determine a journal's quality. Journals usually list their names, academic degrees, and institutional affiliations, giving enough information to find their pages on institutional websites where their academic training and publications may be listed.  
  • In order for a journal to be considered a scholarly publication, it must have a peer review or referee process whereby papers submitted for consideration are read by at least two scholars knowledgeable about the paper's topic. In most cases, the identities of the reviewers are not made known to the author.  If a journal has a peer review process, it is usually detailed within journal issues or on the journal's website. 
  • Every academic discipline has at least one or two indexes or abstracts that are essential tools for doing research in the subject. Most index publishers use some form of a selection process to determine which journals will be indexed to make sure researchers will find the most important articles. 
  • A journal's rate of accepting submissions for publication might be considered a measure of quality.  A low acceptance rate can mean that the journal receives far more article manuscripts than it can publish, an indication that scholars prefer it above others for submitting their work.  However, it is not always easy to find acceptance rates for many journals. Moreover, there is no standard way to calculate acceptance rate.
  • Journals published by university presses tend to be among the more highly regarded, but not all university presses are equal. To some extent, the reputation of a university press reflects the reputation of the university itself, and although they are not without their critics, lists of university rankings can give some indication of a school's quality.
  • Two other important types of publishers are scholarly societies and commercial publishers like Wiley-Blackwell and Springer. In both cases there is no ready measure of journal's importance, and using some of the other qualitative criteria described on this page might be the best approach.