In this episode, I’ll discuss how to judge whether a journal is reputable.
Shout out to “Pharmacy Kelsey” for inspiring this episode!
There are dozens of well-established journals that when we read an article in them, the thought never comes to mind “Is this journal reputable?”
But there are also journals with little or even no peer review, low or non-existent academic standards, and scant credibility that exist only to collect author fees from unsuspecting researchers.
Clinicians are probably more likely now than ever to be presented with an article from an unknown journal with the rapid desire for knowledge regarding COVID-19 treatments.
Here are some ways that an unknown journal can be evaluated to decide whether or not the journal is reputable:
1. Has another organization that you know and trust lent its credibility to the journal?
For example, JACCP is a relatively new journal, but it is an official journal of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy – the same group that is responsible for Pharmacotherapy, a well-established journal.
Likewise, you may have never heard of the journal “Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery” but knowing it is the Official Journal of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a known and legitimate professional organization, can help you determine whether the journal is reputable.
2. Is the journal indexed?
MedLine, PubMed, EMBASE, SCOPUS, and EBSCO are all examples of journal indexing services. These journal indexing services all have criteria on article quality, peer review, and publication timeliness that must be met before being included in the index. Be aware that an unreputable journal may claim on its website that it is included in an index, so always verify its inclusion firsthand by searching for the journal in the indexed database yourself.
A simple way of determining whether a journal is indexed is “Can you find the journal using search tools provided by a medical library?”
A journal’s impact factor (IF) is also a way of determining index status as this is a measure of journal citation within an index.
3. Is the journal’s website complete and grammatically correct?
Some predatory journals that publish whatever an author submits as long as they pay the publication fee are easy to spot because the journal’s web presence is incomplete, or looks amateurish in design, or is filled with grammatical errors.
4. If open access, is the journal registered in the Directory of Open Access Journals?
Most unreputable journals are open-access online-only published journals, yet plenty of legitimate journals meet these same criteria. The Directory of Open Access Journals can help a clinician identify a reputable open access journal. This organization will only list an open access journal in the directory if it determines the journal has an editorial board and peer-review process, as well as several other basic criteria.
None of these methods guarantee that a new journal you come across is reputable, or that a given article you are reading in one of these journals is not fraudulent, but they represent a good starting point of basic criteria to evaluate unknown journals to limit the chances that you incorporate poor research into your practice.
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If you like this post, check out my book – A Pharmacist’s Guide to Inpatient Medical Emergencies: How to respond to code blue, rapid response calls, and other medical emergencies.