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Measuring Research Impact: Assessing Journal Quality

This guide provides an introduction to the various metrics used to measure research (author, article, journal) impact.

Journal Quality Indicators to Consider

As a researcher you will be encouraged to publish in quality, high-impact scholarly journals. It is important that you know what to look for in a journal aside from a high impact factor. Below is a listing of other factors to consider.

Scholarly journals vs. popular and trade journals

Scholarly journals generally have an editorial board, use some type of peer review process, and will publish the primary results of research and summaries or reviews of previous research in their field of academic interest. They may also include academic book reviews. Many, but not all, professional journals are also peer reviewed.

Articles in popular journals and trade publications on the other hand are generally not peer reviewed, favor a much more informal writing style, and often have no, or only very brief, bibliographies.

Peer review

The most respected journals are peer-reviewed or refereed. Manuscripts submitted to this type of journal must be evaluated by an editor, an editorial panel, or a panel of experts (peers) in the field before being accepted for publication.  In blinded peer review, the author's name and institution are concealed from the reviewer in order to reduce reviewer bias. 

A journal’s editorial policy and/or instructions for authors will often indicate if and how articles are peer reviewed. This information is usually located on the publisher’s web site and in at least one printed issue of the journal each year. This is also where you will find the scope and editorial focus of the journal to check

  • whether your article will be suitable
  • how your article should be formatted
  • what citation style is required - some journals may provide a downloadable style file for you to use.

You can also check Ulrich's Periodicals Directory to see if your journal title is refereed. Refereed journals are indicated in the results list by a "refereed" icon to the left of the journal name. The full record for the journal will also indicate this status.


Journal indexing

Widely indexed articles are more likely to be found by other researchers during their literature review process, and a respected and important journal will be indexed in multiple major journal indexes. Ulrich's Periodicals Directory lists the databases in which a journal is indexed. Once in the full record for a particular journal, click to expand the section called Online Availability to see a listing of the databases in which the journal is indexed in full text. Click on the section entitled Abstracting & Indexing to see a list of the databases that provide abstracts-level (i.e. no full text) access to the journal.

Circulation count

Circulation count is a measure of the journal’s audience and hence the potential exposure for your article. A particular journal may not be peer reviewed, for example, but it may be distributed to large numbers of person within an academic community (as part of membership in a professional organization, for example) and may be a valuable publication in this regard. Some journal websites include circulation information.

Acceptance rate

A journal's acceptance rate refers to the number of manuscripts accepted for publication relative to the total number of manuscripts submitted within the last year.  Journals with lower acceptance rates are more selective and, therefore, considered to be more prestigious. Information about finding journal acceptance rates is located can be found here.

Editor and editorial board

The editor and members of the editorial board should be well-known, respected in the field, and from different geographical locations.

Other sources of quality journals

Early career researchers may find it difficult to have their work accepted in the top tier journals. With a rejection rate up to 90% of all submitted articles in the highest ranked journals, even good work is often rejected due to lack of space or because it does not match the current editorial focus. It is, therefore important to look widely for potential publishing opportunities. Check where other researchers in your field are publishing by scanning reference lists or bibliographies in relevant books and journal articles. You can also ask your more experienced colleagues for their recommendations.

Journal Tools

Journal Metrics and Rankings