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Scholarly Publishing and Research Impact: Mid to Late Career Researcher Edition: Avoiding Predatory Publishers and Conferences

This guide to scholarly communications will acquaint researchers with knowledge and tools for better understanding and managing the creation and dissemination of their scholarly research.

What are Predatory Journals?

The topic of predatory journals, including the definition and scope of the problem, can be controversial.

I prefer a definition used by Richard Poynder in discussing predatory open-access publishers as those "who clearly and deliberately trick researchers – essentially, by failing to provide the promised (or even a meaningful) service and/or deceiving them about the nature of that service, simply in order to extract money from them" (20 July 2018 blog post on Open and Shut).

The charging of an open-access author fee does NOT always make a journal predatory. Many journals may charge an author fee for open-access publication, and this practice is not automatically predatory. 

Predatory journals generally exist only to collect these (often exorbitant) fees, and publish articles as an afterthought, without rigorous (or any) review by editors or peers. Their sole aim is to make money, not to evaluate and disseminate high-quality research which advances scholarship in a discipline.

What are Hijacked Journals?

Hijacked journals are fake websites of authentic ones, utilizing the title and ISSNs of reputable journals (Jalalian & Mahboobi).

Authors may fall prey to a hijacked journal more easily than other simple predatory journals because of the appearance of legitimacy and credentials. By falsely assuming the reputable journal's identity, the fake website is able to solicit manuscripts and pocket the money from article processing charges (APCs). 

Identifying Predatory or Low-Quality Journals

What about Book Publishers?

Journals are not the only publication medium that can host predatory players. Practice caution and submit your book manuscript or chapter only to a credible, reputable publisher.

What are Predatory Conferences?

Researchers sometimes receive invitations to attend or present at conferences that are not legitimate but simply covers for an organizer to profit from exorbitant registration or presenter fees.

It is important to protect your investment of time and money, as well as ensure that your presentations or attendance at conferences are actually furthering your participation in your academic field.

Video: Understanding Predatory Journals and Highlighting Cabell's Tools

Predatory Publishing In the News

How to Assess a Journal


Click on infographic to enlarge or download.

This infographic was originally created by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. You can also download it as a PDF.

Tips to Avoid The Traps

Some tips for identifying and avoiding predatory and hijacked journals (adapted from Jalalian & Mahboobi):

  • Generally ignore solicitations for articles that are addressed to you personally (as opposed to a listserv or other group).
  • Ignore unsolicited emails that say your work is already accepted / is guaranteed to be accepted.
  • Be wary of promises for very fast publishing in a prestigious journal (e.g., a "two-week turnaround" promise). Legitimate peer-review and editing processes usually take time. 
  • Rather than following website links from a promotional email, check relevant databases such as Scopus, SCImago, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), or similar for the journal's valid website address.
  • Use one of the resources suggested below to check the “Whois” profile of a website:
    • InterNIC (
    • Domain Tools (
    • GoDaddy (
    • OnlineNIC (
  • Verify deeper website content beyond just the homepage, such as past issues, author instructions, etc.
  • Evaluate the website's design for strange images, frequent spelling/grammar errors, or other questionable characteristics. 
  • Because people with less experience may have difficulty distinguishing fake versus legitimate websites, consult an expert--such as a senior colleague in your department, a mentor in your field, or the SHSU Scholarly Communications Librarian
  • While being attentive and cautious, do not automatically avoid all journals that may be smaller, niche, or new. Some can be excellent. Be open to new venues, and seek guidance in uncertainty. 

Source referenced: Jalalian M, Mahboobi H. (2014). Hijacked journals and predatory publishers: is there a need to re-think how to assess the quality of academic research? Walailak Journal of Science & Technology 11(5): 389-394.

A Caveat About Journal Lists

Some lists seek to include sites which are confirmed to be trustworthy. Other lists seeks to include sites known or highly suspected to be untrustworthy. For the most part, these lists "...share the same problem in that they attempt to externalize an evaluation process that is best internal, contextual, and iterative." 

Swauger, Shea. (2017). "Open access, power, and privilege: A response to 'What I learned from predatory publishing.'" College & Research Libraries News 78(11).

Lists of Reputable Journals

Understand: If a site is not included in these lists, it still might be legitimate; it may simply not have undergone that list's vetting process. Remember also that (a) mistakes can be made, and (b) some journals' quality may change over time. It is always best to assess a publication yourself using rigorous standards.

Other, more specific lists may be provided by your department, college, professional association, etc.

Lists of Possible/Probable Predatory Journals

Understand: If a site is not included in these lists, it may still be illegitimate; it simply may not have undergone that list's vetting process. Remember also that (a) mistakes can be made, and (b) some journals' quality may change over time.

Combating Predatory Publishing with Open Peer Review


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