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Publishing Strategies: Where to Publish

An information guide aims to assist CityU researchers with the many stages within the research process.

Choosing a right journal can be a challenge for researchers, especially in the digital world nowadays. While technology advancements create more publishing opportunities for research papers, it also brings about the emerging of questionable journals such as predatory titles. Researchers need to be objective and identify trustworthy journals for their paper submission.

  • Departmental requirements: Departments often have their own requirements or recommendations for their staff in regard to publishing. Check with your department office first and see if there is any in-house advice or any list of recommended journals.
  • Journal Reputation: Look for the information about the publisher, the sponsoring organizations (if any), the aim and mission statement of the journal, etc. A creditable journal should have all these factors listed in its website.
  • Indexing Status: A good journal is often indexed by major bibliographic and citation databases such as Scopus, Web of Science, Directory of Open Access Journals, and others. Check and see if your targeted journal is being indexed in those databases is one of the ways to ensure the journal quality.
  • Editorial Board Members: Information on the editorial board members should be open to public via the journal webpage. Check and see if the editorial board members are established experts in the field affiliated with known institutions.
  • Editorial Quality: Browse the published titles in your target journals and look for clues on journal quality, e.g. any misspelling, grammar errors, etc. These evidences tell a journal's commitment on monitoring its editorial quality.
  • Peer Review Process: Peer review process is an essential element of academic journals. A reliable academic journal should disclose information like peer review policy, time frame for the peer review, selection of peer reviewer, etc.
  • Ethics: A good journal should disclose information as to ethics on the journal website, their expectations on authors, and how they address ethics issues such as plagiarism, human/animal subject research, conflicts of interest, confidentiality, etc.
  • Author Rights and Copyright: A quality journal should indicate clearly on its copyright policies. Copyright is a bundle of rights that allows authors to re-use and disseminate their works. Authors are advised to anticipate any future re-uses of their publications before selecting a journal and signing a copyright agreement form.
  • Impact Factor Scores: Journal metrics such as JCR Impact Factor are often used by authors in accessing the "impact" of a journal. An impactful journal is usually associated with a higher Impact Factor score comparing with other journal titles in the same subject field. While the score can be one of the critical factors, it is also recommended that authors take a holistic approach when selecting a journal and also take into account the non-bibliometrics factors listed on this page.
  • Open Access compatible: Publicly-funded research outputs are increasingly expected to be made openly accessible. Check your target journal and see if it offers Open Access publishing options; you should also check if it permits self-archiving your postprint copies (i.e. Green Open Access). [Click here to know more about Open Access]
  • Article Processing Charge: For Open Access publishing, publishers often require an Article Processing Charge (APC) when publishing an article. Authors should evaluate their capability in covering such publishing cost before making a paper submission. [Click here to know more about CityU's APC Deals]
  • Journal Operations and Business Model: Pay attention to the business model of your target journals, e.g. is there any proper publication schedule management, any excessive advertising on paper submissions or unrealistic promises on paper acceptance, any clear statements on the publication fees that may occur, any commitments on long term preservation, etc.

With the above general factors in mind, you may formulate your publishing strategy based on your needs and career status. Listed below are some practical advice on a variety of scenarios.

A young researcher may be less experienced in getting their works published. It may be their first paper, or it may be an enhanced work based on their thesis/dissertation. For postgraduate students, they may feel eager to get their works published so that they can get at least a few publishing credits by the time they graduate.

Here are some important factors that young researchers should consider when they are selecting journals for publishing:

  • Turnaround time: Timeline for publication can vary widely between journals. If you are a postgraduate student and want to publish before finishing your degree, you will need to take into consideration the turnaround time and acceptance rate of your target journal.

  • Balance between prestige journals and second-tier journals: While it's good to publish in a prestige journal, it can be hard for young researchers to get published in those highly recognized titles. One of the realistic approaches is considering second-tier journals as well. Though less well-known in the field, these second-tier journals are still peer-reviewed and are publishing quality works. It can be a good starting point for young researchers.

    To evaluate journal's performance, you can check and compare the journals' scores and quartiles via Journal Citation Reports, CiteScore, SCImago journal ranking etc. To learn more about these ranking tools, you may refer to the research guide prepared by the Library.

  • Peer's and supervisor's advice: Professors, mentors and fellow students who study or work in the same environment can offer valuable and practical advice to young researchers, you may try seeking advice from them first and avoid making any rash decisions.

  • Cost of publishing: The cost of publishing varies depending on the journal titles. While some journals involve no publishing cost at all, others (especially Open Access journals) may involve an Article Processing Charge (APC) for publishing. For young researchers who may yet to get any research grants, they should evaluate if they can cover the publishing cost. [Click here to know more about CityU's APC Deals]


Authors should take note of funders' requirements if they are publishing research findings generated from publicly-funded projects. Research outputs from publicly-funded projects are increasingly expected to be made openly accessible, like the case of RGC-funded projects in Hong Kong.

Pay attention to the following elements if you are a funded-project author:

  • Open Access options: Very often, research outputs from funded projects are required to be published as open access publications in order to ensure research findings from public money are accessible to the whole society. Authors should make sure the target journal they are going to publish offers open access publishing options.

  • Publishing license options: Sometimes funders have specific requirements on the publishing licenses; Creative Commons (CC) license is one of the popular copyright licenses used in scholarly publishing. Check the requirements first and make sure your target journal does offer those specific license options. [Click here to learn more about Creative Commons Licenses]

  • Publishing cost: When authors publish research outputs with open access module to compile funder's requirement, check the publishing cost first and make sure they got the enough money to cover the publishing cost. An article processing charge (APC) is often required when publishing open access articles and the cost can sometimes be quite substantial. [Click here to learn more about APC and CityU's APC Deals]

  • Self-Archiving policy: Green open access (self-archiving) is another option that authors might choose if they want to achieve open access for their publications. Different journals have different self-archiving policies, some may be more lenient while some may have stricter policies. Authors can take into account the self-archiving policy when selecting a journal for publishing.

Checking Indexing Status

To make sure your target journal is an indexed journal, you can make use of the following indexing databases.

Checking Journal ranking

To check the scores and ranking of a journal, researchers can make use of the following platforms.

Useful sites and tools

Think. Check. Submit.: This platform helps researchers identify trusted journals and publishers for their research. Through a range of tools and practical resources, this international cross-sector initiative aims to educate researchers, promote integrity, and build trust in credible research and publications.