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I ask because I am finishing a paper and need to decide on which journals I'm going to submit it to, and I have never done a paper before.

I know very little about this, but my general sense is that I want to match the interest level of my paper to the renown of the journal (Nature probably doesn't want my lame paper, but I'm also not going to submit it to a fly-by-night journal that's purely for-profit). I have a vague idea of what some high profile journals are, and a few I know to be disreputable, but there's a pretty wide range in between I have no idea about.

I've heard of the concept of Impact Factor, but also heard (as that article mentions) that it's not everything and just a rough guideline. I've also heard favorable things about review journals, namely that they're often understated but can actually be a great place to submit because people often look there for fresh ideas.

Any advice on how to find the journal(s) that best match your paper?

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A few steps can help. Check your reference list. Where have others writing on similar topics published? you will end up with a list of reasonable journals. The next step can go in one of two ways,, either you chose a high impact journal on the list and take a chance it will be published there or you try to assess where your paper would best fit. The first approach is high risk and if you get rejected you would take the comments and resubmit to a lower impact journal. Trying to figure out an optimal journal directly is not easy and requires experience and insight. You can, for example, ask peers what they think might be a suitable journal and why. Even if you end up with a few differing answers you will be in much better shape. To decide from the final selection might be a matter of flipping coins. You can also look at the editorial staff and see if there is someone among th editors that is very close to your topic. That can be very useful since it is likely that peson will handle your paper and treat it with insight.

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Checking your reference list and discussing with your advisor and senior colleagues will definitely help you shortlist a few journals suitable for your study. Once you have this list, try to figure out the best match for your paper in terms of journal scope. Also keep in mind the study design while selecting your journal. Some journals publish only original research articles, while some publish review articles and opinion pieces as well. Go through the "instructions to authors page" of the shortlisted journals carefully. Certain journals have clear specifications about the nature of the study. For example, a certain journal might not publish experiments conducted on animals.

Of course, the journal prestige and impact would also play a role in your selection. But I would focus more on finding a journal where my paper fits best with respect to the scope, study design, and author guidelines. Once you select a journal, it is always preferable to send a pre-submission inquiry briefly explaining the scope of your research and asking if the journal would be interested in it. If the editor shows interest, you can submit your paper to the journal. In case the editor is not interested in your study, you definitely end up saving a lot of time, rather than submitting your paper and getting a rejection.

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