Why Choosing a Journal Early in the Research Process Is Important

Choose a journal for your research early with these tips, and keep track of your options with our free downloadable template.

Updated on January 23, 2017

two notebooks to decide which to choose from early in the research process

One can never underestimate the value of choosing a journal for your research sooner rather than later.

Your journal choice could influence aspects of your experimental design and even impact how you write your manuscript, so it is also essential to make sure that you choose the right journal as quickly as possible. By starting to think about your target journal early on, you are setting yourself up for greater success and fewer challenges.

Benefits of Choosing a Journal Early

There are several benefits to choosing a journal in the early stages of each specific research project.

  1. It saves you time and headaches. By identifying a journal when you are still carrying out your research, you will know what the journal's expectations are for your experiments and manuscript. You can plan your research and your writing around these expectations and save yourself time and stress later in the process.

    Free Resource: Use this free downloadable template to keep track of important information about journals in your field. It will serve as a great reference when choosing your journal.
  2. It helps ensure that your paper is appropriate and will be considered by a given journal. Many researchers make the mistake of submitting to a journal that is not suitable for their research. If you will invest some consideration at the start to make sure that your research is aligned with the right journal, you can more likely to avoid being rejected.
  3. It gives you more time to secure funding for the publication costs of the journal. Some universities have set aside funds to cover article processing charges (APCs), but many require that researchers apply for this funding. The further in advance that you know the journal that you will be submitting to, the sooner you can submit your application for these funds.

How Journal Choice Impacts Your Experimental Design

As mentioned, your journal choice can even affect the details of your experiments, so it is helpful to know the journal you will be submitting to before finishing your experiments. Here are some ways your research could be impacted:

  1. Number of survey or trial participants. If you are conducting a survey or trial, some journals have requirements on the number of participants that should be included. Check to see if the journal you plan to submit to does, and plan accordingly.
  2. What experiments you choose to highlight. Although you carry out many experiments, the experiments you choose to make front and center in your manuscript will depend on your target journal's audience and its aims and scope. Submitting to a proteomics journal will require a greater focus on your methods and the full range of proteins you discovered compared to submitting to a general microbiology journal, for example.
  3. Data availability. A journal's guidelines on data availability will let you know how rigorous you need to be in how you organize your data. Of course, it's best practice to make all data available, but you may wish to use a particular template or spend more time annotating your data if it will be housed in a prominent place by the journal.

How Journal Choice Affects Parts of Your Manuscript

Choosing a journal before you complete your experiments is ideal; however, choosing a journal before you write your research manuscript is critical. Here are some aspects of your paper that the journal may impact.

  1. Figures. As you create your figures, you should look to the journal to answer questions about color, figure width, and font size and type. If the journal doesn't provide specifications about some of these, you can use general guidelines. However, it is important to check the journal's guidelines first. (Find out some general guidelines and more in our free guide, Creating Effective Figures for Scientific Publication.)
  2. Results and Discussion sections. The journal will determine if these sections are combined or if they are separate. You will save yourself time in planning and writing by knowing ahead of time.
  3. How you write for your audience. Different journals have different audiences. When writing your manuscript, consider your audience and the appropriate background information and implications that you should include.

This list of how your paper may be impacted is not all-inclusive. Other items that could be shaped by a journal include your abstract and reference style. If you know the guidelines before you begin writing, you can do it right the first time.

Next Steps

  1. Use this downloadable template to keep track of important details about journals in your field. You can come back to it each time you start a new paper.
  2. Read tips on how to assess an individual journal's fit for your paper, and learn how to avoid questionable journals.
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