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Predatory Publishers : How to recognize quality publishers from questionable publishers

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This guide has been updated and incorporated into the "Publishing Your Research" guide (link below). Update your bookmarks! This guide will be removed August 31, 2020.

Predatory Publishers

Received an email lately encouraging you to publish with a new exciting sounding journal?

Before you send your manuscript, take a few minutes to check up on that journal.

Predatory publishers exploit the open access author-pays business model for their own profit and conduct little or no peer review or editing work.

Be very cautious of publishers that appear out of nowhere and express interest in publishing your recently completed thesis or dissertation or conference presentation.

This guide aims to identify a number of factors to consider when choosing or evaluating a journal for publication.

"No single person or source is equipped to bear the responsibility of being the ultimate authority on what constitutes as a best (or poor) practice scholarly publishing outlet." - Dr Andy Pleffer & Susan Shrubb

Open Access

Open Access: the users’ rights consist of “a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose,” as well as “the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.”

Simply put, open access means that information is available free of charge; barrier free.

There are two broad categories of Open Access publishing.

Why does open access matter?

Public funding agencies such as Tri-Council in Canada and National Institutes of Health have implemented policies that require funded researcher to make their articles open access and fully usable by the public.

Recognizing predatory publishers

Recognizing Predatory Publishers

It isn't cut and dry to recognize a predatory publisher.  It requires that the author or researcher investigates the journal and publishers.  Some criteria to consider are:

  • Invitation comes by email from unknown source
    • A lot of the time the predatory publisher is responsible for a whole series of journals ; but there are also standalone predatory journals
    • Email comes from unknown source; may be labeled suspected junk mail
    • May mention that they saw your presentation at such and such a conference
  • Editor/Editorial board
    • Do you recognized any of the individuals involved? Qualifications? Do your research.  People listed as editors “Andrew Christopher” Reed Anglia U
    • Contact info sketchy – do they use gmail or Hotmail address
    • Any university or reputable scholarly association affiliation? Can the stated affiliation be verified?
    • Same editorial board for a number of journals
  • Website appearance and quality
    • Language, Professionalism, If there’s advertising, is it appropriate
    • Publisher’s name may be similar to legitimate publisher – Canadian Science Publishing (legit)  Canadian Science and Technology Press (not)
  • Peer review process and standards
    • Non-standard procedures
    • Length of time for acceptance (days or hours)
    • Requests handling or submission fees before acceptance of article
  • Journal title and content
    • Is the content reflective of the title and stated scope of the journal?
    • Titles may be similar to legitimate journals J of Social Issues and Humanities / Journal of Social Issues
      Titles may combine disciplines in unusual ways Int J of Arts and Commerce
    • Misleading titles – American or British or Canadian Journal of –would expect a national affiliation
  • Coverage in reputable citation databases (Web of Science, MLA International Bibliography, Sociological Abstracts, etc...)
    • Coverage in Google/Google Scholar, Researchgate, Academia. ed does not count
    • Even aggregated databases such as Ebscohost’s  contains some suspect material

Ultimately, it is your reputation at stake. Do you want your name associated a sketchy publisher?

If you are ever in doubt about a publisher, ask your liaison librarian for help.

Safe Journals Lists and Other Resources

Safe Journals Lists and Other Resources

DOAJ – Directory of Open Access Journals

Community-curated online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals – “Whitelist”. Prefers to use the term “questionable”, rather than predatory.

DOAJ changed policies a 2 ½ years ago to apply more rigorous  criteria in their review of open access journals to be included in the directory. Asked publishers to “re-apply” and get reviewed for inclusion in the directory. Being included in DOAJ means that a journal has passed up to four stages of independent and objective manual review

Two categories that indicate higher levels of compliance to best practices

Green tick = accepted after March 2014 / higher level of compliance to best practices and publishing standards

Orange Seal = A mark of certification for open access journals, awarded by DOAJ to journals that achieve the high level of compliance

No tick = in the process of re-applying under new criteria

CAUTION – predatory publishers will advertise that they are in DOAJ, and that they are indexed in reputable databases, this must be verified


TRU Library databases

Conduct a search in library database for articles that are similar or related to your research.  Which journals do those articles appear in?

What publications do you turn to for finding quality research?‚Äč


Journal Evaluation Tool

A comprehensive rubric and scoring sheet developed by librarians at Loyola Marymount University based on the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing by the DOAJ.


Think, Check, Submit

A checklist or questions that researchers should be asking themselves when approached by a publishers.


TRU Librarians

Librarians can help guide you in evaluating the authenticity of a publisher.  Contact your liaison librarian for more help.