Choosing the right journal for your research can accelerate the publication of your manuscript. In particular, you need to review a journal’s scope and publication history to determine the best fit. However, whereas identifying a journal that is focused on your field seems relatively straightforward, deciding whether to submit your manuscript to a general, multidisciplinary journal or a specialized, discipline-specific one may be more nuanced.
When making this decision, your main consideration should be your intended audience. In other words, to which research community will your work be most relevant, and which research community’s readership will be most relevant to your desired impact?
Implications of your work for other researchers
First, consider the implications of your manuscript for other researchers. Will your findings potentially affect scientists in multiple research areas, have broad applications in clinical practice, and/or even be of interest to a non-technical audience? Alternatively, will your results mainly advance research in a particular field and be of significant interest to specialists? Incidental findings, regionally significant work such as research on an endemic disease, and reports on unusual clinical cases may be especially well suited to specialized journals.
Implications of reaching a wider audience
Second, consider the implications of other researchers reading your manuscript. Publishing in a general or specialized journal may have different effects on your professional visibility and future research. General journals such as Nature and Science tend to have large impact factors (41.456 and 33.611, respectively, as of 2014), indicating high citation rates and thus potentially broader dissemination and greater visibility. As a result, these journals typically foster more competition for publication and have lower acceptance rates (around 8-10% for Nature and Science), associating successful publication with greater prestige. In contrast, due to their relevance to a smaller community, articles in field-specific journals may receive fewer citations (The Journal of Immunology, for example, has an impact factor of 5.5), but the smaller pool of submissions may increase the acceptance rate (41%) and the efficiency of review and publication.
Specialized journals may therefore encourage more targeted sharing of results with a specific research community, increasing the likelihood of shaping future research in a particular field and of receiving focused feedback on your own research from reviewers and readers. Ultimately, the accelerated path to publication may also allow more rapid accrual of citations.
The decision to submit a manuscript to a multidisciplinary or specialized journal is thus ultimately dependent on both the implications of your research and the implications of your readership. In particular, a wider audience often results in a broader impact and greater visibility for your work (as indicated by readers’ citations), whereas a specialized audience may result in a more targeted impact on your own and related work (as indicated by readers’ feedback and derivative studies).
AJE wishes you the best with publishing your research!