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Red Flags: Know the Signs of Predatory Publishers
There are several "red flags" to be cautious about when it comes to finding a journal in which to publish your article. Below are some common signs of predatory publisher behavior:
- E-mailed Invitations to Submit an Article:
- Was the e-mail well written?
- Were there typos or misspelled words?
- Was the language awkward or unprofessional?
- Did the e-mail use flattery to convince you to submit your article or join their editorial board?
- Example: "your contribution towards the research is absolutely prominent" or "Dear Esteemed Scholar"
- Did the e-mail come from a generic contact address (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.)?
- To see example e-mails from predatory publishers, take a look at the Protecting Yourself page of this guide.
- Journal's Name Suspiciously Similar to a Prominent Journal in the Field:
- Is the title trying to make you believe it is a journal or publisher with which you are already familiar?
- Many predatory publishers create journal titles (and even publisher company names) that are intentionally similar to well-respected journals or publishers.
- Misleading Geographic Information in the Title:
- A title might suggest that the journal is based in the United States or the United Kingdom, but in reality, the publisher might actually be based in India or China.
- Outdated or Unprofessional Website Appearance:
- Is the journal website easy to find?
- Does the website have an outdated appearance?
- Are there typos, spelling, and/or grammatical errors?
- Are images distorted or fuzzy? Are images authorized to appear on the website?
- Does the website include "About" information? If so, is the information provided sufficient?
- Is the journal sponsored or produced by a well-known, and well-respected organization, association, or academic institution?
- Does the journal/publisher claim to be a "leading publisher" or use boastful language regarding their reputation? Some predatory publishers make boastful claims about their reputation, even if they are a startup or new publisher.
- Broad Aim & Scope:
- Do the aim and scope seem appropriate for the journal?
- Predatory journals often have an extremely broad scope in order to attract a large number of article submissions.
- Insufficient Contact Information:
- Is full contact information including a physical address, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses provided? Be wary of journals that only provide a web contact form.
- Use Google Maps to search for the address. Look at the street view of the address. Does the building look like the type of space you would expect a reputable journal to use?
- Lack of Editors or Editorial Board:
- Does the journal list the members of its editorial board on its website?
- Predatory journals include the names of leading scholars in a field among their editorial boards without their knowledge or consent.
- Contact journal editors and board members and ask about their experience with the journals. Editorial board members of legitimate journals welcome questions from potential authors.
- Editors with No or False Academic Credentials:
- Are these people recognized experts in the field with full credentials?
- Feel free to contact editors and ask about their experience with the journal.
- Unclear Author Fee Structures:
- Are author fees clearly explained? How much are author fees, article processing charges, and other associated publication costs?
- Do the author fees seem comparable to other reputable open access journals?
- Is it clear when fees are due?
- Invented Metrics:
- What type of metrics does the journal use?
- Do other reputable journals use the same metrics? Many predatory publishers use fake or invented metrics to fool you into believing they are a credible journal.
- Does the journal promote the questionable Index Copernicus Value?
- False Index Claims:
- Where is the journal indexed? Can this be verified on UlrichsWeb?
- Peer Review Process:
- What is the journal's peer review process? Is this process clearly explained on the journal's website? Can you verify that this process is actually followed?
- Does the journal promise a quick peer review?
- Be wary of promises of a speedy peer-review process. Proper peer review is a time-consuming process. Promises of a speedy peer-review process in an indication that either no peer review is taking place, or the peer review that is happening is of low quality.
- Many predatory journals claim to have a rigorous peer review process when no peer review actually exists.
- "Instructions for Authors" Information is Unavailable:
- Are there clear instructions for authors regarding how to submit a manuscript?
- Is there information about how manuscripts are handled once submitted?
- Manuscripts Submitted via E-mail:
- Legitimate publishers typically require manuscript submissions via a journal-specific or third-party submission system.
- A majority of predatory publishers require manuscript submission via e-mail.
- Evaluate Published Articles:
- Are published articles available? Some predatory publishers don't have any "published" articles available on their websites.
- Have numerous articles been published by the same author(s)?
- Do article titles and abstracts seem appropriate for the journal? Do these articles seem well-researched? Are articles based on sound science?
- Do you recognize articles that you have seen in reputable journals?
- Predatory publishers sometimes re-publish (plagiarize) papers that have already been published in other journals without providing credit, claiming the publication as their own.
- Are published articles written by academics and experts?
- Predatory publishers publish papers that are not written by academics, or that are pseudo-science.
- Feel free to contact past authors and ask about their experiences with the journal.
- Publisher has a Negative Reputation:
- Have you found documented examples that the journal or publisher has a negative reputation?
- Digital Preservation Information is Lacking or Inadequate.
- Copyright Information is Lacking
- Use Common Sense:
- If things just don't seem to be right, trust your instincts and stay away.
- Have Questions? Ask Us! Ruth Bueter, Himmelfarb's Serials Librarian, is happy to answer your questions about predatory publishing and help you determine the legitimacy of a journal or publisher. Contact Ruth by email at email@example.com.
Journal Evaluation Tool
Librarians at Loyola Marymount University created a rubric to help authors evaluate journals. This rubric can be used as a guide when deciding if a journal is legitimate or predatory.
Journal Evaluation Tool (PDF)
Rele, Shilpa; Kennedy, Marie; and Blas, Nataly, "Journal Evaluation Tool" (2017). LMU Librarian Publications & Presentations. 40.
Website Assessment Tool
Website Assessment Tool
This decision-making tool empowers scholars to come to an informed conclusion as to whether a publisher or journal is reputable or predatory based on a review of its website.
Lopez, E., & Gaspard, C.. (2018, November 14). Website Assessment Tool (Version 1). figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7342760.v1
Qualities of Reputable Journals
There is no single checklist that determines if a journal or publisher is legitimate or predatory. However, the qualities of reputable publishers include the following:
- Journal scope is well-defined and clearly stated on the journal's website
- Editors and the editorial board consist of recognized experts in the field
- Journal is affiliated with or was established by a scholarly or academic institution or organization
- Peer-review process is rigorous and clearly explained on the website
- Articles fall within the scope of the publication
- Fee structure is clearly explained and easy to find on the website
- Journal has an ISSN
- Articles have Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)
- Journal has an impact factor
- Copyright and usage rights are clearly stated (e.g. Creative Commons License CC By license)
- Journal is registered on UlrichsWeb Global Serials Directory
- Journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
- Some questionable journals appear in directories such as DOAJ, so this should not be your only criterion when evaluating journals.
- Publisher is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)
- Journal is indexed in subject databases or indexes
- Contact information is clearly provided and available
- Publishing schedule and publication frequency are clearly stated
- Solicitation of manuscripts and other direct marketing is appropriate, well-targeted, and unobtrusive
Many predatory publishers include the names of fake editors among their editorial staff. In an effort to add credibility and legitimacy to their journals, these publishers will often include the names of prominent scholars in a specific field among their editors without the knowledge or consent of these scholars.
Read more about predatory journals with fake editors in the articles below:
Checking Publisher Credentials
To ensure that a publisher is legitimate, make sure to do some research on the publisher before agreeing to send a copy of your article or paying an article processing fee. Here are a few ways you can check the publisher's credentials:
- Look at a few of their articles to ensure that they are scientifically sound.
- Check Ulrich’s Periodical Directory to see if the journal is indexed in MEDLINE, PubMed, Scopus, or other legitimate abstracting and indexing services.
- If the journal is only one or two years old, they are unlikely to have an Impact Factor. Many predatory publishers are listing fake Impact Factors, with names like CiteFactor, Universal Impact Factor, and others. To be sure, you can look up the journal or publisher in ISI’s Journal Citation Reports.
- Google the names of the chief editors. If they are legitimate scholars in your discipline, they will likely have a legitimate online researcher profile.
Predatory Publishing Check-Up Service
If you've been approached by a publisher as an author or editor and are concerned it may be predatory, email Ruth Bueter, Serials Librarian (firstname.lastname@example.org).