Deceptive Journal Red Flag Checklist
Look for these red flags when considering whether a journal is deceptive* or worthy of your trust, and contact your librarian if you have any questions!
***NOTE: Some untrustworthy journals are willfully deceptive, while others are simply of lower quality. Further, many legitimate journals may lack the gloss of more established and well-known journals. It is important to be aware of the resource disparities operating within the journal publishing industry, and the significant infrastructural disadvantages at which less monied journals, particularly those in the Global South, operate. Less than stellar English is not always a meaningful indicator, and journals may lack an ISSN, indexing, or impact factor, and still be reputable and legitimate.
1). A suspicious email soliciting papers is a red flag signaling that a journal's main aim is to make a profit, rather than promote academic research. Look out for:
- unprofessional language
- flattery and bogus personalization
- promises of fast peer review and fast publication
2). Does anything about the Journal or Publisher seem misleading?
- journal name suspiciously similar to another prominent and respected journal in the field
- lack of full contact information in email or on website
- falsified location- Look up the listed address on Google Maps and see if the publisher is actually located there. Does it look like a reputable location where a publisher might be located?
>below you see a that the listed location for the journal "Annals of Physiotherapy Clinics" is very suspicious indeed:
3). Does the journal or publisher's website seem unprofessional?
- typos, advertisements, and dead links or sections that are "under development"
- lack of an "About" section
- excessive or aggressive advertisements, no stated ad policy
- excessive use of stock photos, or suspiciously generic, glossy graphics, as you see below:
4). Is important information about the journal or publisher unclear?
- author fees are unclear
- no clear instruction to authors
- no clear statement explaining peer review process
- lack of information about the ownership and/or management of a journal
- lack of statement explaining the journal's business model
- lack of clear stated policies on handling potential conflicts of interest or research misconduct
- lack of a clearly stated publication schedule
- lack of copyright and licensing information
5). Is the editorial board reputable?
- are the members of the editorial board listed, with full contact information?
- are the members of the editorial board qualified?
- Feel free to contact editors and ask about their experience with the journal and publisher.
> below you see an image of a suspicious journal's editorial board and an image of a college webite's faculty directory, which refutes the journal's claim that one of their editors works for that college:
5). Are the articles published in previous issues high quality?
- look out for a large number of published articles written by a small amount of people
- evaluate the published articles
- Contact past authors to ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
6). Is the journal searchable in major databases, such as PubMed and CINAHL? Contact your Librarian for help.
7). Look up the journal's impact metrics. Contact your Librarian for help.
Journal Citation Reports
The Journal Citation Reports weighs and ranks journals by a number of criteria, including total cites and the Impact Factor. You can search for a specific journal in JCR or browse by subject categories. Our subscription covers 2010 to the present (delayed 1 year). Contact the library if you'd like help using this resource.
Scopus uses its own citation metrics to evaluate journals, including SJR (which journal is weighted by prestige) and SNIP (which compares a journal's cites against the total number of citations in a field). There's no browse function, but you can look up and compare specific journals. The data covers 1996 until the present. Contact the library if you'd like help using this resource.