General considerations

A journal may choose to accept or reject your paper based on either a specific set of criteria stated explicitly on the journal website or on universally accepted standards in academia. Generally, these include its novelty, soundness of research methods, contribution to advancing a particular model, theory, or the overall field, application and usefulness to real world issues and challenges, connection to current state of the art, the narrative of the research problem, and comprehensiveness. Of particular interest is the final point of comprehension: does your research communicate your findings and insights effectively and comprehensively so that readers from any background can read, understand, and apply its content? The above factors all contribute to how journals will assess your work. Therefore, it is important to weight your research against these factors when deciding on which journal to submit your research. Does your research fit these criteria? The below table outlines these factors in more detail.

CriterionDescriptionGeneral level of importance based on all possible types of research papers (1–5, with 5 being most important)
Novelty of researchIs your research new and contribute fresh insight to the field? Does your research have novel methods, use a novel approach to an existing problem, and/or offer new results or conclusions?4
Soundness of research methodsAre your research or experimental methods technically sound? Do they adhere to proper scientific practice and are they analytically robust? Are they appropriate for the type of research questions you aim to answer?4
Contribution to fieldIs your research contributing to advancing knowledge in your field? Does your research seek to solve a problem, challenge a theory, or bring new insight to existing knowledge?4
Application of researchDoes your research have a real-world application? Can your research be applied to systems, processes, or phenomena in a tractable and practical way?3
Connection to current state of the artIs your research relevant to the field as a whole? Is your research timely and appropriately framed to address the current or future challenges in your field?5
Narrative of research problemDoes your research tell a story? How does it appeal to readers? Does it contribute to improving how your field is perceived by its community?3
ComprehensivenessIs your research easy to understand, comprehend, and follow? Does it contain easy-to-understand terminology that is accessible to anyone? Is it digestible?5

Practical example for Life Sciences

Within the life sciences, the above criteria are important factors that journals consider when assessing your research. These are assessed through the peer review system. Therefore, testing whether your research meets these criteria is a good way to self-assess your research and decide which journal is most suitable for your work. For example, if your research is applied work using data to answer a pressing ecological problem of a particular system, you may value the application, research methods, and novelty of the research more highly than the other criteria. Therefore, your target journal is more likely to be a journal that is less focused on theoretical work and more on applied work, such as the Journal of Applied Ecology or Conservation Biology.

Practical example for Social Science

The criteria above are generally applicable to all social sciences journals, however, there is one major consideration that is particularly applicable to social sciences: whether your research is clinically focused. While there are a variety of generalist journals that publish both clinical and inquiry research, it is often better for clinically-focused researchers to publish in smaller, more specialized journals. That is, researchers who focus on informing clinical practice, such as by conducting clinical interventions to treat specific mental disorders in psychology may aim to submit to a journal like Schizophrenia Bulletin that is directed specifically towards clinicians, over one that is more generalist, like Psychological Science.

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