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Assessing Journal Quality

This guide provides information on determining which journals are most essential to a discipline.

English & Psychology Librarian

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Jaena Alabi
231 Mell Street
Auburn, AL 36849-5606

Citation Analysis

A high number of citations generally indicates a high level of quality. Cited reference searching enables you to find articles from journals that have cited a book, a patent or another article. Through a cited reference search, you can discover how a known idea or innovation has been confirmed, applied, improved, extended or corrected. Article citations also may be the best way to assess the merits of a particular author or article.

Web of Science

  • Today the ISI database covers over 16,000 international journals, books and proceedings in the sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities.

Impact Factor

Impact factor is based on the number of times that articles in a journal are cited in the two years following the year of publication. The impact factor of a journal is calculated by dividing the number of current year citations to the source items published in that journal during the previous two years. The Journal Citation Reports (JCR) can provide Impact Factors and Times Cited for journals for more than 8,400 of the world's most highly cited, peer reviewed journals in approximately 200 disciplines. High impact factor or highly cited journals are considered more prestigious and important.

Harzing's Publish or Perish (PoP) is another resource that provides statistics and metrics for academic citations. PoP is a free software that draws its data from Google Scholar. It is recommended for assessing impact in the social sciences, arts and humanities, and engineering.

Prestige & Reputation of the Journal

The prestige and reputation of the association, society, or organization publishing a journal can be a determining factor. Theoretically, the most prestigious scholarly associations such as APA, IEEE, etc. publish the best, most important, research in the field and therefore their journals have more prestige and weight than others. There are a handful of scholarly journals that are known by reputation throughout the world, such as JAMA, The New England Journal of Medicine, Science and Nature. These scholarly journals are known and read by both people within the scholarly discipline and people outside the scholarly discipline.

In-depth Knowledge of the Field and Journals in the Field

This method holds the most weight and is the most difficult criteria to obtain. Few people have knowledge of, and familiarity with all scholarly journals in a discipline since there are thousands of journals for any given discipline. However, among sub-disciplines, it becomes more possible to possess in-depth familiarity with the journals. If someone does truly possess this knowledge, their opinion, of which are the “best” journals in a discipline is worth a great deal in assessment.

Acceptance/Rejection Rate of the Journal

The acceptance and rejection rates of journals can be a determining factor. Low acceptance rate, high rejection rate journals are considered the best and most prestigious journals. These acceptance and rejection rates can be found in directories of periodicals in certain disciplines. Many journals and societies have web pages that give publication data and style requirements and often includes acceptance/rejection rates. The paper copy of the journal occasionally includes this data and will always provide current contact information.

Indexing Services Covering the Journal

Whether a journal is indexed in the major indexing/abstracting service in the field is another criteria that can be used to assess the worth and quality of a journal.

Total Circulation of the Journal

This is another method which could be used to assess the quality of a journal. High readership and circulation could be markers of a journal's quality and/or popularity. Circulation numbers can be often be found at the journal publisher's website.