Journal selector explanation

This tool gives you a way to search for a suitable journal for your paper according to options such as its speed of peer review or publication, the type of peer review it uses, how selective it is, options to do with open access and its article publishing charge. It is intended to complement other journal selection tools that focus more on the subject area.

See also the separate page explaining what you see on the profile page for each journal.

The tool currently contains a limited number of journals. They are biased towards biology and medicine; towards journals with a broad subject scope; and towards open access journals, particularly ‘megajournals’ (journals that accept all sound research without judging its importance).
If you are a journal editor and would like us to add information about your journal, we would be happy to do this.

The questions that you can use to select a journal fall into five categories: Subject, Peer review, Open access, Speed and Other.

Default options are checked already; these are usually the ‘Don’t mind’ ones. If you don’t mind about some of the questions or categories, ensure that these default options are the ones that are checked so that you get the longest list of journals.

The various options are explained for each category below.

Table of contents



This category has two questions.
1. What broad subject area does your paper fit into?
2. How broad a subject spread should your journal have?

A few tips on choosing the right option:

Within an overall subject area such as biology or physics, journals that cover a subset of that subject area are categorized as ‘Top level subject’, ‘Specialist’ and ‘Ultra-specialist’. This is a subjective judgement so if you aren’t sure how specialist a journal you would like, try more than one of these options.

Examples of a ‘top level subject’ would be cell biology, cardiology, volcanology, astrophysics or social work.

Examples of a ‘specialist’ subject within the above example top level subjects would be mitochondria, paediatric cardiology, Martian volcanology, radioastronomy or child social work.

‘Ultra-specialist’ subjects are more specialist still.

Peer review

The options for the question ‘What kind of peer review should the journal use?‘ are explained below:

  • Conventional: A small number of invited reviewers assess the manuscript before publication
  • Post-publication: Manuscripts are published first and then peer reviewed
  • Crowd-sourced: Peer review is crowd-sourced (before or after publication), that is, anyone can add a review
  • Preprint server: There is no peer review as the journal is a preprint server only
  • Reviewer discussion: There is discussion between reviewers (which can sometimes include the author) before a decision is made
  • Biology Direct type: The journal Biology Direct has a unique type of peer review that is fully open, restricted to editorial board members, and with the paper rejected if there are three refusals to review it

The options for the question ‘How open would you like the peer review to be?‘ are explained below:

  • Conventional double blind: Reviewers are anonymous, reviewers do not see authors’ names, reports are not published
  • Conventional single blind: Reviewers are anonymous, reviewers see authors’ names, reports are not published
  • Optional signing: Reviewers can sign reports if they wish, reviewers see authors’ names, reports are not published
  • Open to authors: Authors know reviewers’ names, reviewers know authors’ names, reports are not published
  • Open identities: Reviewers see authors’ names, reviewer names are published, reports are not published
  • Anonymous open: Reviewers see authors’ names, authors do not see reviewers’ names, reviewers’ reports are published, reviewers names are not published
  • Fully open: Reviewers see authors’ names, reviewers’ reports are published with their names
  • N/a: Not applicable as you have said you don’t want peer review

The options for the question ‘How selective would you like the journal to be?‘ are explained below:

  • All sound science: Publishes all sound science (or research if in a non-science field of academia), regardless of perceived interest or importance (the ‘megajournal’ criteria pioneered by PLOS ONE). The Impact factor of these journals varies and can be above those of some of the more selective journals.
  • Not very selective: Publishes work of interest to the specialist field (corresponding approximately to Impact factor 1.5 to 3)
  • Somewhat selective: Publishes work of interest to nearby fields (corresponding approximately to Impact factor 3 to 8)
  • Selective: Publishes only work of interest to a broad field (corresponding approximately to Impact factor 9 to 15)
  • Highly selective: Nature, Science, Cell or other similar highly selective journals

Open access

One of the most important parts of the journal selection decision is about open access. This section allows you to select journals that offer a range of different types of access.

Note that the information provided here is just for standard research papers, that is, articles reporting original research results in full. Some journals charge less (or occasionally more) for other article types or shorter papers, so it is worth checking the journal websites about these.

Some definitions:

Gold: papers are free for readers as soon as they are published

Hybrid: some papers in the journal are available to subscribers only, but others are available to all readers immediately because the authors have paid a fee.

APC: article processing charge (sometimes called author processing charge) – the usual name for the fee that may be charged to authors (or their funders) to make an article open access.

Archiving (green open access): many journals allow the final accepted version, or sometimes the final published version, of an article to be submitted to a repository so that it is free for anyone to read. This is called green open access. Most subscription journals that allow this impose an embargo so that the paper cannot be made available through a repository for a period after publication, typically 6 months or a year. These embargoes are not considered in this tool.

Licences: most open access publishers use a Creative Commons licence. The attribution licence CC BY allows all reuses as long as the authors are credited. Strictly speaking open access publications must use this licence, but some disagree. Other restrictions that can be added to CC BY are NC, which allows only non-commercial reuse, and ND, which doesn’t allow derivative works to be made. Some journals require transfer of copyright to the publisher, while others have non-CC licences that do not transfer copyright.

APCs: Article processing charges or author processing charges. The tool divides APCs into eight categories, from zero to over $4500. All APCs have been converted into US dollars in mid 2014. Where prices are given in several currencies we have used the US dollar price.

Where there is a reduction for society members or for other special groups, or for article types other than standard research papers, this has been ignored.

PeerJ has a membership system instead of an APC per paper. We have taken the assumptions given in the example on their website to calculate a typical equivalent to the APC of between $200 and $800. However, the actual cost per paper or per author will vary depending on the pricing plan, number of authors and number of papers published per year.


When judging how fast a journal is, you need to split the time from submission to publication into three phases:

  • the time from submission from the first decision
  • the time needed for the authors to revise (which the journal can’t control)
  • the time from acceptance to publication

We have therefore provided data on the first and third of these times. The times used are generally those provided on the journal websites.

Where a range of times is given we have taken the longest. Where an average is given we have used that. Many journals do not provide times on their websites, so this is given as ‘Unknown’ here. To include these journals in your search you should click the ‘Don’t mind’ option for both times.

For journals that publish before peer review, we have taken the time from submission to publication at that journal as being equivalent to the time from acceptance to publication in other journals. For F1000Research, in which papers are indexed in PubMed when they receive two positive peer reviews, we have taken the time from publication to receipt of two reviews as equivalent to the time from submission to first decision in other journals.


The type of organization that publishes a journal is usually clear from the journal website. If a society owns the journal but a commercial company has been contracted to publish it, it is listed as a society journal.

Length restrictions: there are some journals (particularly those with a print issue) that have strong length restrictions; others encourage manuscripts below a certain length but don’t enforce this strongly; others allow longer manuscripts on payment of an additional fee; and others have no restrictions on how long an article can be. If you select the answer ‘Somewhat’ the journals that come up in the selector will include those with non-strict length limits. Note that this tool only applies to standard research papers; some journals have length restrictions on other article types, which are ignored here.

The question ‘Do you want a journal that provides metrics about the paper after publication?‘ is about the metrics for particular articles that are displayed on the article page on the journal website. Most journals give some information about the number of times the article has been accessed on the journal website and/or the pdf version has been downloaded (these are grouped together here); others use companies such as Altmetric or ImpactStory, which provide information on a large variety of metrics such as mentions in social media and the mainstream media, bookmarks in services such as Mendeley and more. Other journals display the number of citations the article has gained (possibly in addition to downloads).

Crossmark is a service from CrossRef that tells readers whether a document is up to date or whether it has been retracted or a correction, erratum or addition is attached to it. The publishers participating in the scheme are listed here. This is unknown or unclear from the website for many publishers.

The Journal Impact Factor from Thomson Reuters Journal Citations Reports is the most commonly used indicator of the quality of a journal. Here we include data only on whether the journal has an Impact Factor or not. The journals that do not have one are generally less than three years old, so there has not been enough time since their launch for the Impact Factor to be calculated from citations.

Copyediting: Journals traditionally do a thorough check of the whole article for sense, grammar, consistency and so on before publication. Some newer journals and megajournals, however, do not do this, or do only a limited check. Authors should be aware of whether the journal to which they submit their paper will copyedit it after acceptance. If the journal does not, the author should consider getting their paper checked by an editor – Cofactor provides a range of checking services.