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Choosing where to submit your paper

It can be tempting to begin writing a paper before giving much thought to where it might be published. However, choosing a journal to target before you begin to prepare your paper will enable you to tailor your writing to the journal's audience and format your paper according to its specific guidelines, which you may find on the journal's website.

Here are the top ten things to consider when choosing where to submit your paper.
1Peer review Does the journal provide a peer review service? Peer review is considered a stamp of quality from the research community.
2Relevance Does the journal publish other papers similar to the one you are preparing? Does it publish theoretical, experimental or applied research?
3Reputation Does the journal have a strong reputation in your field? Where do your peers publish?
4Scope Is the journal broad in its scope or is it a specialist journal read mainly by a particular community?
5Timeliness Is fast publication important to you? Have you checked the publication times for the journal?
6Cost Will the journal charge you for publishing your paper? Will your institution cover the publication charge if there is one? Will you be charged for extra pages/colour figures/supplementary data?
7Language Most international journals publish papers written in English. Will you need to have your paper checked by a native English speaker?
8Citation Is the journal likely to be cited by other researchers working in your field?
9Indexing Is the journal indexed in the major online databases such as ISI Web of Science?
10Appearance Does the journal publish papers in a format that is suitable for your work?

Open access or subscription journals?

The cost of publishing academic papers can be paid for in a number of ways. Traditionally, libraries and other institutions pay a subscription fee to receive individual journals or collections of titles for their researchers. This is known as the subscription model and, as an author, you usually do not have to pay a fee to publish a paper in a subscription journal, although you may incur a page charge or be charged for colour figures.

The open access publishing model allows published papers to be freely available for anyone to read. This means that authors, research institutions or funding organizations may fund the costs of publishing. In return, authors can ensure that everyone is able to access their work. If you wish to submit to a journal that charges for publication, always check with your institution to ensure that there are funds available to cover these charges. Some open access journals offer discounts, so check to see whether these apply to you.


There are a number of ways to publish a paper, but many authors also share their work in online repositories. This is known as self-archiving. The arXiv repository, managed by Cornell University, is a good example of this. Authors can upload their published work to online repositories, subject to journal conditions. Many authors upload their unpublished work, which has not undergone any form of review. If you wish to share your work quickly or gain informal feedback from your community, self-archiving can be useful. Remember, though, that online repositories are only archives and most will not subject your work to formal peer review.

A typical snapshot of a molecular dynamics simulation of an 11% cholesterol membrane assembly

A typical snapshot of a molecular dynamics simulation of an 11% cholesterol membrane assembly Yingzhe Liu et al 2011 Phys. Biol. 8 056005.

A bright field image of a Pseudopediastrum colony using an optical microscope

A bright field image of a Pseudopediastrum colony using an optical microscope D B Phillips et al 2011 Nanotechnology 22 285503.