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Biomedical Engineering

Evaluating Quality of Journal and Articles

When reviewing an open access publisher or journal for quality and legitimatcy -- the following should be considered:

1. Peer review process: All of a journal’s content, apart from any editorial material that is clearly marked as such, shall be subjected to peer review. Peer review is defined as obtaining advice on individual manuscripts from reviewers expert in the field who are not part of the journal’s editorial staff. This process, as well as any policies related to the journal’s peer review procedures, shall be clearly described on the journal’s Web site.

2. Governing Body: Journals shall have editorial boards or other governing bodies whose members are recognized experts in the subject areas included within the journal’s scope. The full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors shall be provided on the journal’s Web site.

3. Editorial team/contact information: Journals shall provide the full names and affiliations of the journal’s editors on the journal’s Web site as well as contact information for the editorial office.

4. Author fees: Any fees or charges that are required for manuscript processing and/or publishing materials in the journal shall be clearly stated in a place that is easy for potential authors to find prior to submitting their manuscripts for review or explained to authors before they begin preparing their manuscript for submission.

5. Copyright: Copyright and licensing information shall be clearly described on the journal’s Web site, and licensing terms shall be indicated on all published articles, both HTML and PDFs.

6. Identification of and dealing with allegations of research misconduct: Publishers and editors shall take reasonable steps to identify and prevent the publication of papers where research misconduct has occurred, including plagiarism, citation manipulation, and data falsification/fabrication, among others. In no case shall a journal or its editors encourage such misconduct, or knowingly allow such misconduct to take place. In the event that a journal’s publisher or editors are made aware of any allegation of research misconduct relating to a published article in their journal – the publisher or editor shall follow COPE’s guidelines (or equivalent) in dealing with allegations.

7. Ownership and management: Information about the ownership and/or management of a journal shall be clearly indicated on the journal’s Web site. Publishers shall not use organizational names that would mislead potential authors and editors about the nature of the journal’s owner.

8. Web site: A journal’s Web site, including the text that it contains, shall demonstrate that care has been taken to ensure high ethical and professional standards.

9. Name of journal: The Journal name shall be unique and not be one that is easily confused with another journal or that might mislead potential authors and readers about the Journal’s origin or association with other journals.

10. Conflicts of interest: A journal shall have clear policies on handling potential conflicts of interest of editors, authors, and reviewers and the policies should be clearly stated.

11. Access: The way(s) in which the journal and individual articles are available to readers and whether there are associated subscription or pay per view fees shall be stated.

12. Revenue sources: Business models or revenue sources (eg, author fees, subscriptions, advertising, reprints, institutional support, and organizational support) shall be clearly stated or otherwise evident on the journal’s Web site.

13. Advertising: Journals shall state their advertising policy if relevant, including what types of ads will be considered, who makes decisions regarding accepting ads and whether they are linked to content or reader behavior (online only) or are displayed at random.

14. Publishing schedule: The periodicity at which a journal publishes shall be clearly indicated.

15. Archiving: A journal’s plan for electronic backup and preservation of access to the journal content (for example, access to main articles via CLOCKSS or PubMedCentral) in the event a journal is no longer published shall be clearly indicated.

16. Direct marketing: Any direct marketing activities, including solicitation of manuscripts that are conducted on behalf of the journal, shall be appropriate, well targeted, and unobtrusive.

From Principles of Transparency and Best Practices in Scholarly Publishing.

Journal Impact: Impact Factor

The impact factor is an indicator of journal quality. A measure of the frequency with which the "average article" in a journal has been cited in a particular year, the impactor factor is calculated by dividing the number of current citation to articles published in the two previous years by the total number of articles published in the two previous years. Ultimately, the impact factor helps researchers evaluate a journal's relative importance, especially when compared to others in the same field.

Keep in mind that not all journals are ranked. For example, in literary studies, few impact factors exist for specific journals, largely because literary scholars tend to cite primary texts more than secondary ones. This makes it crucial to determine a journal's overall impact by its availability and presence. Try using the following sources.


Tools for Determining Journal Impact & Impact Factor

NOTE: Some databases require a subscription; SJSU has subscriptions to the following databases.

Journal Citations Reports (JCR)

Also known as InCites Journal Citation Reports. JCR allows you to evaluate and compare journals using citation data drawn from approximately 12,000 scholarly and technical journals and conference proceedings from more than 3,300 publishers in over 60 countries. JCR is the only source of citation data on journals, and includes virtually all specialties in the areas of science, technology, and social sciences. Learn more in the Help section.


Provides data for the following journal metrics:

  • SJR (SCImago Journal Rank)
  • IPP (Impact per Publication)
  • SNIP (Source Normalized Impact per Paper).

Web of Science

Web of Science is a citation database that covers three major tools: Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index. The complete database covers thousands of scholarly journals from 1975 to the present across a broad range of disciplines. Included in the subscription: InCites Journal Citation Reports and Essential Science Indicators (ESI). Use the ESI Help Guide and JCR Help Guide to learn more.

Ulrich's Periodicals Directory

Provides bibliographic and access information for scholarly and academic publications, consumer and trade magazines, and other serial publications. Information available in Ulrich's that is indicative of journal impact includes:

  • “Academic/Scholarly” designation (an indicator of quality)

  • Refereed status (an indicator of quality)

  • Circulation statistics (an indicator of quantity)

  • Journal description and reviews

  • Indication of inclusion in Journal Citation Reports

  • Abstracting/Indexing services that provide access to the content of the journals (The more services that abstract and index a journal, the more widely disseminated the information is, and the greater the impact.).

  • Document Delivery Services (If the journal is available through document delivery services, this serves as an indicator of its importance as these delivery services chose to make available journals that have merit.).

Cabell's Directory of Publishing Opportunities

These directories provides access to an Altmetric Report and lists the JCR Journal Impact Factor. The directories also have a blacklist of predatory journals.


A union catalog, WorldCAT is the combined catalog of thousands of libraries worldwide. The number of libraries that own or provide online access to a journal is an indication of the impact and imporance of the journal. WorldCAT provides the truest indication of the total number of libraries that subscribe to a journal. To search WorldCAT:

  • In the "Advanced Search" tab, search by title or ISSN, and limit to "Serial Publications."

  • Identify the correct journal from the search result.

  • Note the number associted with the "Libraried Worldwide" link. Select "Libraries Worldwide" link, followed by "Display All Libraries" to receive complete library holdings.  The "Libraries Worldwide" link only displays local libraries.

  • Email, print, or export results.

  • Note: Keep in mind you may see multiple record listings of the same journal in the search result. This may be due to format differences (e.g. print, electronic) and/or differences in cataloging practices. Be sure to recognize and count those when necessary.

Project Muse

If a journal is included in Project Muse, this is an indicator of a quality publication because of its commitment to preserving journal content. Only those deemed important are included in Project Muse.


If a journal is included in JSTOR, this is an indicator of a high quality publication because specialists and scholars vote to decide which journals are key in each field. Only those deemed most important are included in JSTOR.


Tools for choosing the right journal for your research:

The following questions are designed to help you critically evaluate a research article. Keep them in mind as you read a research article. 

  1. Is the article peer reviewed?
  2. Are there any conflicts of interest based on the author's affiliation or the funding source of the research?
  3. Are the research questions or objectives clearly defined?
  4. Is the study a systematic review, meta analysis, or empirical study?
  5. Is the study design appropriate for the research question?
  6. Is the sample size justified? Do the authors explain how it is representative of the wider population?
  7. Do the researchers describe the setting of data collection?
  8. Does the paper clearly describe the measurements used?
  9. Did the researchers use appropriate statistical measures?
  10. Are the research questions or objectives answered?
  11. Did the researchers account for confounding factors?
  12. Have the researchers only drawn conclusions about the groups represented in the research?
  13. Have the authors declared any conflicts of interest?