For example, let us consider that I write a manuscript which is to be submitted to one of the prestigious journals such as PRL, PRB, etc. In this manuscript, is it OK to cite from some journals which are generally considered as not-so-prestigious journals? If I cite more papers from low impact factor journals, does it play a negative role?

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    How would you imagine it could play a negative role (assuming the paper itself is not irrelevant or low quality)? If people would avoid citing a paper just because it was published in a low-IF journal, that would make the system rigged to a pathological degree (which is not to say that it isn't, from a certain viewpoint).
    – tomasz
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 7:55
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    @phyphenomenon: that's almost circular -- "high-IF" means that it gets many citations. If you found many citations of low-IF journals, they wouldn't be low-IF. Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 11:06
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    Note that "prestigious" and "high impact factor" are not strongly correlated. Could you give an example of what you mean by a low-IF journal? Also note that "prestigious" changes with time. For instance Proc. R. Soc. A used to be really a top journal 50 years ago, nowadays it's less prestigious. Same goes for Philosophical Magazine, where Rayleigh, Taylor, Kelvin, Maxwell etc. used to publish, which has now become a fairly-low-impact solid-state physics journal by the looks of it. Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 12:53
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    There are plenty of example of extremely important papers that were published in quite obscure journals.
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 13:59
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    And the other side is also true: DO NOT cite irrelevant papers just because they are from high impact journals.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 17:00

8 Answers 8


A low impact may not say a lot about a journal. In my field, one of the lowest ranking journals is in fact the best journal for my work. Because of the extreme narrow scope, it has a low impact, because its readership is restricted. However, like its readership, the journal's referee pool consists solely out of dedicated experts in this exact field. In turn, throwing your work in there is like throwing it into a lions den. If it survives, the paper is definitely strong and worth surviving.

In other words, when an important argument in your manuscript all hangs on that one citation from a low-ranking journal, you may want to familiarize yourself with that journal, before labeling it as a “not-so-prestigious journal”. Judge and see if it is a valid paper. Look at the author list. Authors often say more than the journal. Research groups can be prestigious too, universities can be too, single authors can be too.

In general, when it's just a side-note in your MS that needs a reference, I would definitely not leave out work based on IF only, and in fact not even bother with all this.

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    Interesting! Out of curiosity, what is your field?
    – Davidmh
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 10:17
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    @Davidmh - Ophthalmology and otorhinolorayngology (eyes and ears :-)
    – AliceD
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 10:22
  • I disagree with the lowest ranking journals being the best ones in otorhinolaryngology.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 10:49
  • @CapeCode - that is not what I have claimed. I claim that it IF may not tell you anyhting about journal quality. It depends on the journal. Of course you can prefer JARO over others. And I was speaking of an example in visual sciences, for that matter. You shouldn't over-interpret my answer.
    – AliceD
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 12:49
  • I see, but I think with an IF of 2.59, JARO is anything but "one of the lowest ranking journals". I guess what you mean is that in our field, the top journals have relatively modest IFs. I always understood IF to be interpreted by field anyways.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 12:55

Of course, you should cite any relevant work.

You can't ignore work just because it is in a journal that someone believes to be lesser. That doesn't mean the work is bad.

As long you do a thorough literature review and avoid predatory journals, there should be no negative impact on your paper.

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    If the paper is relevant and good, why does predatory matter? One would hope that good papers don't end up in those, since it offers them legitimacy, but what do you suggest you do if/when they do? Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 7:43
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    @zibadawatimmy I meant it from the perspective of the reviewers. Seeing predatory venues in the references might make the reviewers think negatively of your paper. I've never had to consider your scenario but I would cite, although I would be highly cautious. Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 7:45
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    @CapeCode I don't understand the meaning of predator journals.
    – phenomenon
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 11:10
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    @phyphenomenon there exists a set of "journals" that will essentially publish anything in order to extract a fee from the authors; a paper being published in such a venue is some evidence that it's likely to be very low quality.
    – Peteris
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 11:49
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    @Peteris: Still, one just has to hope that a prestigious journal won't reject a paper just because it cites something that's likely to be very low quality. If someone has found a way to build on work that for whatever reason originally appeared in a really bad venue, but which genuinely did originate the ideas being developed, then you can't honestly avoid citing it even if you want to and even if the original paper really wasn't all that good. But of course not all citations are due to this kind of unavoidable reference to other work. Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 12:19

The impact factor (IF) is a metric of citations. If enough manuscripts from a low-IF journal get cited more often, the journal's IF will improve.

In general, you should consider any manuscript independent of the journal it got published in. However, there is one caveat: If you suspect that a journal doesn't follow a good review process (such as predatory journals), you should examine the manuscript with extra caution. Furthermore, there is usually some correlation between the quality of a manuscript and the work described therein and the quality of the journal it got published in.

As a reviewer, I have no problem with a few citations from low-IF journals. However, I will be very critical if there are no citations from mid- to high-IF journals because that is an indication that your work might not be very relevant or innovative.


Your own work is not based on the impact factor of your cited work. The quality of your argumentation and thesis you discuss in a paper mainly builds on a coherent discussion of the state of research, independent from where it is published. Only referencing high-impact factor journals indicates that you only did a shallow literature search in the more well-known journals, which is not very professional in my opinion.

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    It would be unacceptable to not cite a paper merely based on the reputation of the venue published. If it plays a role in your development/understanding of your work it needs to be cited, no matter where it comes from. If it's just bolstering your "recent work" section, then you should make sure the paper is of appropriate quality, as you will not have had such close exposure to it (again, no matter where it comes from). Frankly, some of the most important papers in science were never peer-reviewed, and some did not even appear first in a journal (e.g. Shannon, Perelman). Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 12:47

Academic research is based on citing other relevant work that you used or inspired your work. Omitting those sources is a practise that should be very strongly discouraged, and you could be accused of plagiarism. There may be reasons why that work was published in a less prestigious journal, despite its relevance (or not), for example having been written by a student in a less prestigious institution who is not yet known, or who is publishing work that may be controversial (but not necessarily invalid). As the authour of your article, you should view yourself as the "expert", and be able to ascertain the validity of the papers you are referencing, regardless of where they were published in. If you are using some of their results, or referring to views contained therein, you have an obligation to referencing them.

You need to be confident in your work, which should be evaluated only by its content, and not by the other articles it is referencing.

  • Omitting sources is in no way related to plagiarism. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 10:07
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    That's really a bad remark in academia. Not citing sources is one of the most dishonest thing one can do academically.
    – user
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 10:14
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    My comment didn't imply a relation between omitting sources and academic honesty, but rather the fact that omitting sources and plagiarism are totally different things and, therefore, it would illogical to accuse someone, who were omitting sources (even intentionally) in plagiarism. They could (and should) be accused of academic dishonesty via intentionally - if that's the case - omitting sources, but not plagiarism. My previous comment's wording could be better, though. For example: omitting sources is not equal to plagiarism. Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 10:26
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    We could argue about the technical differences, which is why I used "could", but I now thing that we agree that it would not be honest to read a paper, get ideas, and then leave it out because it is not in a prestigious enough journal. Whatever we call it does not matter to me, but I do understand your point now. Thanks for the clarification.
    – user
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 10:33

Yes, cite it. For sure. Anyway, you can differ between low impact factor and a low quality paper. A low impact factor does not imply always a low quality paper (if that was a concern of you).


Impact factor (IF) is a quite debated metric for journal quality. But in no way it addresses the quality of a single paper in that journal, and especially the quality regarding your needs. So you can cite this paper, as long as it effectively contribute to the work your are performing.

Beware though, since some journals tend to increase their IF, some editors may favor papers that cite a lot (or a sufficient quantity) of papers from the same journal, or even from the same society or publisher group. It is unfair un general, yet this exists.

The number of citations received by the paper can sometimes help balancing the IF of the journal it was published in.

Finally, aside from the IF, which is not relative to the field (some fields tend to have weaker IF than others), the journal search at Scimago provides a ranking of journals in different fields.


Of course, you can and should cite a paper from a low IF journal if it is relevant to your argumentation! IF changes overtime, the ideas in the paper stay and can be worth using later on.

To base your decision for citing a paper on the impact factor is definitively anti-scientific!

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