While going through the literature survey for my project, I found that some papers have been published in reputed journals while some are not. But the study area, data used are very much similar in both cases. Also, the method followed is similar.

So my question is, based on the above context, what factors are responsible for research work to get accepted in a good journal?

PS - The papers are related to the earth science field.

  • 6
    Of course, to be published in Journal X, you need to submit to Journal X. Good papers are likely to be published in the journal they are first submitted to.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 18:36
  • In your case, the first study, assuming it is solid work, will appear in a good journal. Any derivative works, and presumably less interesting works will probably appear in lower ranking journals. There are many factors that determine whether paper-X appears in journal-Y. You can search this forum to check what makes a good article. Commented Sep 25, 2021 at 21:33

1 Answer 1


This question was asked during the pandemic and never received an answer, but did receive a comment with a lot of upvotes. I think the question is common enough that I will try to provide an answer, also to get it off the unanswered queue.

I'm a mathematician, and I've noticed the same thing. There are many reasons why "journal quality" is a poor proxy for "paper quality." For one thing, if two papers have similar data and methods, then the second paper could be viewed as derivative of the first, or less exciting, and hence published in a lower journal. That happens a lot in math. It can also happen the other direction, where an early paper ends up in a lower journal because the particular subfield is so new, but later papers doing kinda the same thing end up in top journals because the subfield has become more accepted.

Another factor is where the paper is first submitted, as pointed out in the comments. Some authors misjudge the value of their work and aim too low. Other times, some authors face pressure to get published in a top journal (e.g., before you have tenure) and others face less pressure and don't want to deal with a lengthy review process. Sometimes senior people also choose to support newer or lower ranked journals by sending them strong papers, so those journals gain recognition. I've seen this a lot.

A related factor is time: sometimes you need a paper accepted ASAP, e.g., if your tenure dossier is due in six months. You might aim for a lower journal.

Lastly, there's always the prestige bias, where if two authors write up basically the same type of thing, but one is a professor at Harvard and the other is a professor at a no-name place, then the former will get published in a more prestigious journal. In math, our review process is almost always single blind so this really plays a role.

  • Single blind and not particularly obvious why that is at that.
    – user176372
    Commented May 7 at 23:38
  • 1
    @user176372 Math is single blind for a bunch of reasons: 1) Many subfields are small so one often knows who is working on what. 2) There's a norm that almost everything is put on the arxiv, so one will likely see papers one is refereeing already. 3) It's common to circulate preprints to people one knows before submitting, so the people who are the most likely referees will be often the most likely to have seen it before. 4) Many techniques and stylistic aspects are identifiable to specific people. This connects with point 1. 5) Results often build on prior results by the same authors.
    – JoshuaZ
    Commented May 8 at 0:11
  • @JoshuaZ but those are excuses for "why bother" rather than good reasons! I've reviewed plenty of things from people I couldn't identify without the name.
    – user176372
    Commented May 8 at 11:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .