Spotting a Predatory Journal

By Amanda Janke

Congratulations!  You’ve worked hard on collecting the data and writing a manuscript about your research.  Now what?  Publishing your manuscript in a journal is often a long and hard process but can be rewarding.  However, what happens when the publication process goes wrong?  What happens if you fall prey to a predatory journal?  Well, that happened to me, and I am writing this with the hope of helping you spot the predatory journal before submitting the manuscript you worked so hard on. From my experience, here are some helpful tips on how to spot a predatory journal right away:

First, and probably most importantly, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Submitting a manuscript often means editing your current work to fit guidelines that the journal has, such as what the title page should look like, how graphs and tables are formatted, and page length.  If the journal just has a drop box and a place to put your contact information, it probably is not a journal you want to submit to.

Second, take some time to look at the journal’s website.  Is there complete contact information listed?  If there is incomplete contact information or it is not consistent across different parts of the website, that may be cause for hesitation.

Third, while you are looking at the website, look at some of the published articles they have available.  Do they look like they have been through the peer-review process?  Do they contain a lot of mistakes?  Additionally, if it is a journal with a specialty, are the published articles pertaining to that topic?  If they are publishing articles outside of their specialty or the articles have many writing mistakes, you may want to question why that would be.

Now, what happens when it is too late?  You’ve submitted to a predatory journal, you realized they published your work without your permission, and you demanded they take down your work via multiple forms of communication without any response.  Well, not all hope is lost.  According to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) (2016), if there was no copyright transfer (you did not sign any documentation), you could still move forward with publishing in a legitimate journal and include a note to the editor, explaining what had happened.  

If you do happen to fall into the trap of a predatory journal, be sure to reach out to the institution in which you conducted the research, whether that is your school or work.  They may have some advice for you on how to move forward or have additional resources to fight back.  I was thankful to have my professors there to guide me.

**Please note that this advise is based on my own experience and may not apply to all situations.  Always do your research and talk to peers during the publication process.  They may have information that is more pertinent to your specific work.

Committee on Publication Ethics. (2016). Withdrawal of accepted manuscript from predatory journal.

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