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Choosing a Publication Venue: What is a "Predatory Publisher"?

A guide for researchers looking for places to publish their work.

Introduction

Have you received an unsolicited e-mail from a publisher, inviting you to submit your article or conference paper? Or perhaps you've received what sounds like a wonderful opportunity to have your dissertation published? Use the tools on this page to determine if you've been approached by a questionable or predatory publisher—one that is really only interested in your money and will not help you establish a good publication record.

Is This Journal Publisher Legit?

Signs a journal or publisher might be "predatory" or that it might not be a good fit.

  1. The journal is not listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
  2. The journal is not listed in the Ulrichs directory. It is not included in one or more major indexes.
  3. The publisher is not a member of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA).
  4. The publisher is listed on Beall's List.

Visit the website for the journal.  You might have concerns if...

  1. You don't regularly read this journal.
  2. You don't recognize previously published authors. You don't recognize the members of the editorial board, or there is no editorial board listed.
  3. It does not appear to be affiliated with a university, scholarly society, or commercial publisher you are familiar with. It is vague about what country it's based in.
  4. You cannot easily identify if they have article processing fees and/or how much they cost.
  5. The journal does not appear professional—look for an impact factor, an ISSN, DOIs for individual articles, easy to find contact information.

Visit Thinkchecksubmit.org for more guidance on assessing journal quality.

Great, This Company Will Publish My Dissertation!

...Not so fast. If you're approached by a company offering to publish your completed dissertation (or even your master's thesis) as-is, you should be very suspicious. It's highly likely that this company is a vanity publisher. A legitimate scholarly book publisher will review your dissertation manuscript and likely require lengthy revisions in order to turn it into a marketable book. No reputable publisher will simply reprint your dissertation without any changes—it doesn't matter how great you thought it was! If you're hoping to build an academic career, don't take the bait from a company like this. It may make it much more difficult to subsequently publish a book or articles based on your dissertation.

Recommended reading: "I Sold My Undergraduate Thesis to a Print Content Farm" (Slate)

Where to Find More Information About Journals

Journal Citation Reports (JCR) — Use this resource to locate citation data (metrics) for a particular journal title.

Publication Index Lists — Use these lists to determine if an open-access or hybrid journal is included in a traditional, respected indexing source:

Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) — A membership organization for OA publishers.  Members must adhere to a code of conduct, many points of which are direct attempts to combat against predatory publishers.

Scholarly Open Access: Critical Analysis of Scholarly Open-Access Publishing (aka Beall's List) — This blog is written by Jeffrey Beall, librarian from the University of Colorado, Denver. He provides a list of publishers and journal titles that are considered “questionable” or possibly “predatory.” Recently, Beall has added some transparency about his methods of determining if something is "predatory" to his blog, in response to criticism. Like the process of considering where to publish, researchers should consider Beall's site with some healthy criticism. Good to use alongside OASPA, to see a list of "good" OA publishers. [NOTE: Beall's List was removed from the Internet in January 2017 by its hosting institution, the University of Colorado at Denver. The link above now directs to an archive of the site in the Wayback Machine.]

UlrichsWeb — An authoritative source of bibliographic and publisher information on academic and scholarly journals, including Open Access publications, peer-reviewed titles, popular magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and more from around the world.

Get Help!

If you'd like advice about a particular publisher or situation, please feel free to contact me! My contact information is on the Home tab.

Acknowledgments

Material on this page has been adapted from Martha Kelehan's Field Guide to Predatory Publishers on the Tufts University website.