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In academia is common to hear the phrase 'publish or perish' and also that your articles have to be of high quality. So e.g. 4 articles in low impact journals worth as 1 article in a well ranked journal.

But then my questions:

  • Is it always guaranteed the high quality of your papers if you publish in a high impact journal?

  • Or there can be the possibility that your (theoretical) high quality papers, published in good journals, are actually low quality?

  • Is it all about number of citations?

I am new to Academia so please forgive my naivety. Thanks

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    Usually, better journals get better reviewers. But, in reviewing, I found, that, once it's vetted, the quality can quite differ. Essentially, reviewers tend to be more to keep bad stuff out than to improve papers. There are glorious examples of the latter, but that's rare. So, a working assumption can be that better journals are less likely to accept rubbish (it does happen, though), but good stuff can be found in many venues (I am not talking about predatory journals which is a relatively recent phenomenon). In short, the lower bound is higher in good journals, the upper average probably too. – Captain Emacs Oct 22 '16 at 11:07
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    By "high impact" do you mean the journal with high impact factor.?? Note that it is a bad measure of quality. – Coder Oct 22 '16 at 11:09
  • @Coder well..yes. I assume that the impact factor can be a good measure of journals' quality as the h-index, right? Why the former is a bad measure of quality? – no_one Oct 22 '16 at 11:22
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    Impact factor/citation rates is a measure of popularity. While it is an indicator of the fact that many consider a journal/paper important, it can be misleading because: 1. it can be influenced by marketing, fashion and the name of the brand/author 2. it can be a consequence of the author just being there when a field expands (overshadowing earlier work of similar kind) 3. popularity doesn't mean depth of thought; there are many other things. A high citation rate at least means that there is interest in the work - for more detail, you need to actually look into the work. – Captain Emacs Oct 22 '16 at 11:32
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No they do not.

That is the short answer. But that is mostly due to the fact that nothing is guaranteed in this world. High impact factor journals are most likely to have a high percentage of high quality articles since rejection rates are high and the editors have the possibility to choose from a large pool of submissions what they deem worthy. In consequence, the editor's opinion about the quality of an article is of significance.

After the editor's decision, reviewers are still able to reject articles. In some journals rejection rates are still as high as 40% after the first review.

You should keep in mind that a high quality, Nobel prize level publication can be published in any journal in its field, but a low quality article might only be published in a low impact journal or be rejected altogether.

TL;DR: On average, high impact journals should have a high density of good publications.

A last note on your last bullet point: A large number of citations certainly shows that an article is significant in its field. A low number of citations could either mean that the article is insignificant or that nobody noticed its significance yet. In the end, that is why you publish in high impact factor journals: You want to get noticed.

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