Join us as we mark 15 years of supporting the global research community. Learn how you can take part in the celebrations.

How to Choose Between General and Specialized Journals

  • Identifying a journal that relates to your field is relatively straightforward; however, deciding whether to submit your manuscript to a general, multidisciplinary journal or a specialized, discipline-specific one may be more nuanced.
  • It is important to consider the impact your work will have on researchers outside your field and the potential for greater exposure. excerpt: “Identifying a journal that relates to your field is relatively straightforward. What about deciding whether you should aim for a broad-scope journal or a specialized one?”

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!

Share with your colleagues

Related Articles

Choosing the Right Journal for Your Research

All About Journals

Choosing the Right Journal for Your Research

Choosing the right journal for your research manuscript can be challenging. Here's how to choose the right one. Read More »

Why Choosing a Journal Early in the Research Process is Important

All About Journals

Why Choosing a Journal Early in the Research Process is Important

Free downloadable template and tips to help you choose the right journal early in the research process. Read More »

Scholarly Publishing: A Brief History

All About Journals

Scholarly Publishing: A Brief History

A timeline describing the long, unique history of scholarly publishing - from the 1600s to today. Read More »

Stay up to date

Sign up for early access to AJE Scholar articles, discounts on AJE services, and more