Publishing Your Work: Assessing Journal Legitimacy

Journal Information



Red Flags: indicators of deliberate deception

Displays a legitimate ISSN

- WorldCat:


Check also in Ulrich’s Global Serials Directory if you have access.

Fake ISSN. The displayed ISSN belongs to a completely different journal

Displays a legitimate impact factor that matches the score in Journal Citation Reports

- Journal Citation Report (JCR):

More information at:

"Impact Factor" is not the JCR Impact Factor

Publisher is a member of the OASPA or of COPE

- Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA):

- Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE):

The journals/publishers should be members not merely stating that they abide by the stated codes of conduct.


Journal is indexed in one or more major databases such as Medline, EBSCO, Gale, Proquest, Scopus, Web of Science

- NLM catalogue:

- EBSCO Academic Search:

- Gale title lists:

- Web of Science:

- Proquest:

- Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ):

- Sherpa/Romeo

Journal should be "Currently Indexed in MEDLINE" not just available in PubMed or PubMed Central

Indexing in PubMed Central is not the same as PubMed.

If the journal claims indexing in a particular resource but it cannot be verified.

Information Displayed on the Web Site



Red Flags: indicators of deliberate deception

Publication timeline is clearly stated taking at least 1 month


Average peer review time is 14 weeks (Nguyen et al, 2015) for regular articles. See for example Nature Journal Metrics.

Promises of a completed submission-to-publication of less than a month

Editors are known in their fields


Conduct a web search on one or more editors. Check with peers and mentors in the field.

Same editor on multiple disparate journals of the same publisher.  Editors' CVs should note their affiliation with the journal.

Authors of published articles are specialists in the fields they are publishing in


Conduct a web search on one or more authors. Check with peers and mentors in the field.


Text for various descriptions is original and not plagiarized from another publisher's site


Conduct a web search of several sentences verbatim.

Plagiarizing multiple statements or whole paragraphs from another publisher.  Note: It's possible to have the same statements on different journals of the same publisher.

There are no glaring grammatical errors


Poor writing is not necessarily an indication of problems with legitimacy, but an indication that the writer's first language is not English.  Nevertheless, website text should be clearly written with minimal grammatical or spelling errors.


Indexing information checks out


Are they indexed in all the databases they claim to be indexed in?

Not indexed in the databases that they claim to be indexed in

There is a clear statement on any fees


No statement, or information is easily missed


There is a clear statement on copyright transfer


Most traditional journals require transfer of copyright to the publisher.  If you're funded by NIH, make sure the agreement complies with the NIH Public Access requirements.


There is a clear statement on author retention of  copyrights


Most OA journals allow copyright retention


Communication from Journal Representatives



Red Flags: indicators of deliberate deception

Any payments are due upon acceptance NOT at the time of submission



Demanding payment before acceptance

Solicitations for articles are relevant to your field of expertise



Topics are completely outside of your field of expertise

Based on: Hoffecker, L., Hastings-Tolsma, M., Vincent, D., and Zuniga, H., (2015). Selecting an open access journal for nursing publication: be cautious.  Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 21 (2016)

Download our list of further resources for more information and examples.