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How to Get Published: A Guide to Human Rights and Social Justice Journals: III. Picking Your Publication

General Overview

  • Authors will need to conduct a targeted publication selection in order to choose where to publish their research, but this process will require time, research and intuition.
  • There are several factors that are worth considering when deciding where to publish. This section discusses some of the key factors and provides a blueprint for finding good publications related to human right and other related fields. Be sure to consult with your faculty advisor or other experts in the field for more tailored publication recommendations.
  • Most journals, peer-reviewed and student-led, accept submissions on a rolling basis. When a journal intends to publish a special issue on a particular topic, there may be deadlines for submitting pieces to that special issue.

Parameters of the Inquiry

Timeliness: Do you hope to publish your work fast?

  • Some academic journals may take a year or two to publish your work because of multiple rounds of peer review or possible backlogs in their submissions process. Online blogs, online-only journals or online components to print journals are typically a faster route.
  • Practice tip: It may be difficult to assess how quickly will print journals publish your work once accepted. You can get an idea of the timeliness of the journal by looking considering the following:
    • When was the latest issue? Be sure to find out when was the most recently released journal articles on the online platform or repository of the journal. If you submitted your piece in early 2022 and the journal’s last issue was published in 2021, chances are that publication will take some time. A few journals have a really helpful feature where your article goes online as soon as it is accepted for publication.
    • How frequently does the journal publish? Be sure to distinguish whether the journal is annual, quarterly, or if it publishes on some other frequency. The more frequent the journal, the higher the chances of acceptance and the higher the chances of a timely publication. Look for articles that have a “rolling submission.”

Word limit: How long is your written product?

  • Most academic journals set forth maximum and minimum word counts, sometimes as high as 10,000 words. Online blogs may make it possible to publish shorter pieces, typically in the 1000–2000-word range.

Scope: Does the topic of your paper fit the scope of the journal?

  • While it is good to publish in a journal that covers precisely the topic of the paper, consider other journals whose scope is broad enough to cover the topic of your piece. For example, an article on forced migration would be a prime candidate for the International Journal of Refugee Law, but it could also fall within the scope of environmental journals if the topic is on forced migration due to climate change.
  • Scope and preemption checks: This is an area where knowing how to do a preemption check can well be helpful. Do past articles in the journal touch on the same topic/issue as your paper? The ideal journal candidate will be a journal that has covered similar territory to your paper, but not yet over-covered it so that they might now be turning away any more submissions on exactly those lines.
  • Scope and selection criteria: There is often overlap between a journal’s scope and the selection criteria for new articles. Almost all journals will consider the originality and significance of the submission in the research fields that constitute their scope. Almost all journals will also consider how the manuscript fits within the journal scope and whether it will be of interest to its readership base.

Prestige and Impact: How reputable is the journal?

  • There are several ways to assess the prestige and reputation of a publication. Below are few ways to gauge this:
  • Publisher affiliation: who publishes the journal? Journals published by a professional body are normally the most prestigious. Commercial journals from obscure or new publishers are normally last.
  • Metrics: Many reputable journals try to quantify their impact through various metrics. Consider here metrics like download data, H-Index, h5 media scores, altmetrics (social media metrics), journal impact factors, and Washington & Lee Law Journal rankings
  • Rank: Is the journal highly ranked?
    • The London School of Economics and Political Science has published lists of high-ranking journals sorted by subject area. Though there is no separate list for “human rights,” the report provides lists of journals in fields that may be related to human rights such as Economics, Gender Studies, Geography & Environment, Government, Health Policy, International Development, International Relations, Law, Social Policy etc.

Reach: How large of an audience does the journal reach?

  • Does the journal reach an additional practitioner audience over and above academics in a given sector?
  • Some long-established and prestigious journals with wide circulation are also read by professionals outside academia. A wide audience can help establish your work and you as a researcher in the field.
  • How international is the journal – e.g. as reflected in its scope, the Editorial Board and authors it publishes?

Open Access: Is the journal open access or does it offer the option to publish open access?

  • Open access journals usually have wider readership than closed-access journals.
  • Publishing open access may entail author processing charges. These costs may be significant and may not always be covered by departmental or research grant sources.
  • Most law school journals are open access and search engine optimized.
  • For more, see Berkeley Library's guide on open access publishing

How to Find The Right Publication

Finding the right outlet can seem like an enormous task without an obvious place to start. Be sure to consult with your faculty advisor or other experts in the field for an initial list of recommended publications.

In addition, we have compiled a database of academic journals and online blogs that publish articles on human rights issues or other related topics.

Other tools to find publications:

  • Washington & Lee Library Journal Rankings tool – This website is helpful for the ability to loop up journals and filter by topic areas. You can filter by subject, language, format and so. After selecting the journal criteria in box 1, click “Top 100” in the drop-down menu next to “Show” and hit submit in Box 2: “Choose ranking criteria.” The website should auto populate a list with journals that match the selection criteria.
  • Scholarship databases like HeinOnline (Databases > Law Journal Library > PathFinder Subjects: Human Rights Law) or Google Scholar.
  • Other directories like Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or Scimago Journal & Country Rank.
  • During your preemption research, note the journals where articles of interest are published.

Note on Predatory Journals

Predatory journals are publications that claim to be legitimate scholarly journals, but they misrepresent their publishing practices (Elmore and Weston, 2020).

Tips for spotting predatory journals:

  • Predatory journals often obscure their article processing charges, i.e. they make this information difficult to find. 
  • Predatory journals often claim to have a peer review process, but also promise to compete the review process in an unrealistically short period of time. Reputable journals will not promise that they will complete the review process in a very specific and short period of time - such as two weeks.
  • Predatory journals are often quite broad in scope, i.e. their aims/mission statement implies that they will publish anything and everything as long as you pay the fee.
  • Predatory journals are not forthcoming about the criteria used to evaluate articles for publication
  • Webpages of predatory journals often look less professional

Helpful websites: