Best journals to publish papers for Engineering

A simmering question faced by the scientist or engineer considering publishing a peer-reviewed paper is which engineering journal to submit to. Hopefully, the question (and perhaps its answer) has been on the researcher’s mind from the start. Often this is a last-minute choice after the manuscript is almost or entirely written. 

What are the factors that should be considered in the lead-up to a decision as to the most appropriate publishing venue for your work? Historically, the journal selection process involved giving consideration to factors such as – 

  • relevance, 
  • acceptance rate, 
  • circulation, 
  • reputation, and 
  • time for publication.

However, as more academic journals 2023 have come online and search engines have made article search and access much simpler, some of these factors are less pertinent today. 

Learning About The Origins Of Journals To Understand Their Essence

The first scientific journal was published more than 350 years ago – the “Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society” was a general publication of “natural philosophy” (as science was referred to back then), and for over 100 years, all regularly published journals were equally general in the same way. After all, there weren’t any real specializations in science or engineering and, therefore, no necessity for specialized journals. The dawn of chemistry as a modern scientific field changed all of that. Largely through the efforts of Largely through the efforts of Antoine Lavoisier, the French scientist, and his colleagues, the “chemical revolution” that took place during the late 18th century assisted in making chemistry a quantitative science that involved the amalgamation of elements into molecules.

Ever since then, the growth of science has led to the growth of specializations, both in science and engineering disciplines and in the journals that serve them. Today, there are approximately tens of thousand (and counting) peer-reviewed journals that publish more than millions of articles per year. These journals range from the very general to the highly specialized, but the vast majority of scientific journals today are specialized in narrow areas. The first decision facing potential authors is where on the spectrum of specialization they should try to publish a paper in a Scopus journal. Most scientific paper topics can fit well anywhere on a spectrum, from general to specialized.

In this blog, we offer a systematic approach for researchers to determine which engineering journal is the best suited for their brand of research, topic, findings, and objectives.

Whether you are deciding which journal to submit to (often referred to as the “target journal”) before, during, or after writing your article, there are many factors to consider in your decision. The process can take time if the journals you are familiar with do not meet your publishing needs this time around. Taking a systematic approach can help narrow down the list of appropriate choices and make a final decision quickly.

Also, since your publishing needs may differ from article to article (for example, this time you want a quick publication, you have a tight budget to cover the publication costs, and you’re targeting readers from different disciplines), it helps to systematically assess and consider the many factors involved, so know for certain that you are making the best choice every time.

Determining Which Engineering Journals Fall Into The Broad Category Of “Suitable For Me & My Reseach Work”

When you want to identify journals in your field, there are several ways to search. For instance –

  • In the journals you regularly read in your field, check the journal names that appear in the reference sections of published articles that are related to your work.
  • Use online tools to identify potential reviews. Enter different keywords that describe your search, highlight the most relevant journals in the search results, and then check the journal websites for detailed information.

The Methodical Approach To Choosing The Best Engineering Journal

Follow the four-step approach below, answering the questions listed for each factor to help you choose the right journal for your particular story. Note that the first two steps are distinct to you, not the journal – if you don’t know what your publishing goals are, then you’re not ready to choose among journals yet.

  • Step #1

Contemplate Your Take Home Message

  • Your take-home message is the key message that you want your readers to take away from your research. 
  • This is the center of the arguments and assertions of your article. It should contain three sentences at the most.
  • Your take-home message will assist you with determining who your ideal audience will be and, therefore, which magazine is best for reaching that audience.
  • Whether you are about to start writing your article (this is the ideal situation) or have already written it, you may want to write down your take-home message and keep it visible to help you focus as you work on the subsequent steps.
  • Step #2
  • Determine Your Specific Publishing Objectives
    • What audience do you want to reach? 
    • Check your takeaway and write down who would really benefit from knowing your search results. 
    • Write down who your ideal target audience is comprised of.
  • What Sort Of An Audience Would Benefit From Reading Your Work?
    • A general audience?
    • A more specialized and multidisciplinary audience?
    • A single-discipline audience?
    • A highly specialized audience in a subdiscipline of a single discipline?
    • Would an international, local, or national audience be more suited?
    • An international audience isn’t always the ideal target for your message. 
    • Perhaps a regional or national audience would find your message more valuable, especially when geographic or cultural factors are involved in the search.
  • What Sort Of Linguistic Groups Do You Wish To Target?
    • Do you require translation to reach a key audience? 
    • Do you require language support to write an article in English? 
    • Can you get this support, and do you have funds available to pay if you can’t get it for free?
  • Considering Open Access vs. Subscription-Based
    • If your target audience is comprised of authors from less affluent countries, open-access publishing may be a good option as readers will be able to access your published article for free. 
    • Open access publications can reach a wider audience, but what audience do you really need?
    • Do you wish for open or closed access to your published article?
    • For the sake of brevity, only the primary characteristics are indicated; variations exist within every single type.
  • Open Access
    • Readers (along with their institutions) pay next to nothing to read such journals. 
    • The author most often is required to pay an article processing fee (APC) at the most. 
  • Closed Access
    • The author doesn’t pay to publish owing to the fact that publication costs are covered, either by dues from academic societies or by individuals/institutions paying for reading access.
  • Some funding agencies that award research grants stipulate that the resulting research articles should be published only in open-access journals. 
  • If your funding agency does not stipulate open access, then you must decide whether to target an open or closed access journal (or a hybrid journal that offers both types of access). 
  • The debate continues over whether open access is actually able to achieve higher citations, and the reputable journals of many academic societies have closed access, where papers are published behind a paywall.
    • Does your funding institution (if you have one) require you to publish only in open access publications?
    • Do you have sufficient funds to pay an APC if you want to go for an open-access journal?
    • Does the target audience you wish to reach tend to read closed access or open access?
    • Do you require a quick publication?
  • You may want a quick publication if you think your findings are useful to the community and warrant quick publication, or you might need a quick publication for career/employment purposes. 
  • Some journals have fewer submitted articles than others and might be able to publish accepted articles much faster, and some popular journals have a fast track for important articles warranting rapid publication. 
  • If you want faster publication, some regional and national journals do not have as many submitted articles awaiting review as international journals. 
  • If the journal editor thinks your article is a good fit for the journal, your work may enter the peer review process of the journal more quickly than in international journals and, if accepted, it could enter the list of publications more quickly.
  • Does the journal expedite original article submissions?
  • If your preferred journal does not accept expedited original articles, does it accept short/brief submissions? 
  • Would it be a good decision to write your research in the form of a short/brief communication?
  • Does the journal’s website offer insight on the average time from manuscript receipt to first decision (rejection or peer review), time to final decision, and then time to publication? 
  • Or can you see by scanning the published papers what the average times might be from the “Received”, “Accepted” and “Published” dates, which indicate the time needed for both peer review and publication?
  • How many issues are typically published by the journal each year? 
  • Does the journal regularly publish when scheduled? 
  • Do they post continuously online?
  • Step #3

Evaluate The Scope, Configuration, Reputation & Impact Of The Journal

  • Now that your message, target audience, and publishing goals are clear, you need to check if your shortlisted Scopus journals can help you achieve those goals. 
  • If they can’t, you’ve got to find other journals that can meet your objectives – but at least now you can search for brand new journals with the help of your key terms and terms that describe your type of audience, type of article, and your choice in free access.
  • Does your article meet the journal’s requirements?
  • Does your article meet the objectives and scope of the journal? 
  • Check this aspect on the journal’s website first. If your research does not match the stated goals and scope of the journal, you will waste time submitting your article.
  • Does the journal publish the type of article you want to write? 
  • Can your article meet the word, citation, number, and table limits in the Author Guidelines?
  • Can you meet the journal’s ethical requirements (with respect to authorship, ethics, consent, data availability, committee approval, etc.)?
  • What sort of a peer review system is utilized?
  • Certain sorts of peer reviews are more common in some fields than in others. The primary peer review types are –
  • Blind (Single-Blind) Review

Authors’ names are disclosed to reviewers, but reviewers’ names are not disclosed to authors.

  • Double-Blind Review

The names of authors and reviewers aren’t disclosed to each other.

  • Open Review
    • The names of authors and reviewers are disclosed to each other. 
    • In some cases, reviews and author responses may be published alongside the article. 
    • Some journals for publication of research papers even offer open post-publication reviews.
  • Does The Journal Offer A Variety Of Different Peer Reviews Processes To Choose From?
    • Does the average peer review time (from receipt to acceptance) seem reasonable to you – not too fast (suggesting peer review is not rigorous enough) and not too long ( suggesting that you will have to wait for a long time before your work becomes available to readers)?
    • Are there usually two or more reviewers?
    • Does the journal offer cascading peer review, where if the journal rejects your article, they offer to forward your article and accompanying reviews to another journal (usually within the same portfolio of publishers )?
    • Is the journal trustworthy and legitimate?
  • Concern persists in the world of academic (especially engineering) publishing about predatory journals, whose only objective is to exploit authors by charging them exorbitant APCs without providing the services offered by legitimate publishers.
  • How Transparent Are The Engineering Journal’s Procedures & Policies (e.g., On Payments, Publication Ethics, Copyright)?
    • Is it clear if you would have to pay an APC to publish? 
    • If yes, how much is the charge?
    • Has the editorial board listed recognizable and reputable members, along with their affiliations? Do these members list the journal on their affiliate websites? 
    • Is there membership diversity?
    • If you search the name of the journal online, do you find many negative comments about it?
    • Does the journal publish manuscripts free of typographical, grammatical, and other obvious errors? 
    • Are editing services offered to refine the manuscript before publication?
    • Does the journal provide indexing services? 
    • What other services does the journal provide the author?
    • Are there distinct ways to contact the journal by phone, email, and post?
    • To which international publishing organizations does the journal belong?
    • How old is the engineering journal? Of course, new legitimate journals are created all the time, but as with anything without a history to verify, careful evaluation is important.
    • Does the journal have a reputable publisher?
    • Is the publisher’s contact information easy to find?
    • What is the impact of the journal?
  • Is The Impact Factor Of An Engineering Journal Of Any Importance?
    • A journal’s impact factor is not a perfect measure and has many critical components, but it is likely to remain in usage for the foreseeable future. 
    • Many high-impact factor engineering journals have a high rejection rate due to fierce competition to publish there. 
    • Unless you need a high impact factor post for a particular reason, the impact factor doesn’t need to be a primary consideration. 
    • In fact, some highly specialized and globally recognized journals have a low impact factor just because there aren’t many researchers working and publishing in the discipline, so the citations of its published papers are, as a result, far lesser.
      • How does the engineering journal rank in terms of the h-index score on Google Scholar Metrics?
      • Does the journal exhibit impact in other ways? 
      • For instance, does it show the impact of an article on social media (altmetrics)? 
      • How well established is the engineering journal 2023? An older journal will likely have a more dedicated readership than a newer journal, but not necessarily a broad and large readership – a highly specialized engineering journal might be well-established but have just a small readership-base.
      • Does the engineering journal specify the size of its audience? 
  • Step #4

Determine Which Engineering Journal Best Suits Your Objectives

  • Now is the time to weigh the answers to every one of the questions listed above in order to accurately rank your shortlisted journals and pick the engineering journal that best meets your publishing needs.
  • If you’ve got time, quickly skim through the latest issues of each journal (and any additional issues) to see if articles similar to yours have been published recently, which could mean that yours would not be considered new enough for this review. 
  • However, in the opposite direction, your findings may well correspond to a recently published article, and you could include a discussion of this in your article.
  • If you happen to be rejected by your first choice journal, you will have your shortlist ready for quick submission to the next most suitable journal.
  • Be Wary Of Well-Known “Sub-Par” Journals
    • Unfortunately, the open access movement in publishing (where authors pay for publication and readers can access articles for free) has spawned a nasty phenomenon – the predatory journal. 
    • These are bogus scientific journals that claim to serve the needs of the scientific community but, in fact, only aim to make money. Inspite of having a legitimate-looking website and a reasonable-sounding name, these journals aren’t genuine. 
    • They rarely, if ever, read, accept any paper submitted after bogus peer review and then take money from the authors to publish their paper on a website. 
    • Publishing an article in a predatory journal is worse than a waste of money; it’s a stain on the author’s career and a detriment to the discipline of engineering.
  • In order to circumvent predatory journals, here is a list of questions to ask yourself before submitting an article to an unfamiliar journal –
    • Do you or your colleagues find the journal to be familiar?
    • Have you ever read articles in the journal?
    • Is it easy to find the latest articles in the journal?
    • Are you able to identify and contact the publisher easily?
    • Is the name of the publisher clearly mentioned on the website of the journal?
    • Are you able to contact the publisher by telephone, email, and post?
    • Is the journal forthright about the type of peer review process it practices?
    • Are articles indexed in the journal-indexing databases that you refer to?
    • Is it apparent what fees will be charged?
    • Does the journal website explain what these fees are for and when they will be to be in charge?
    • Do you recognize the editorial board?
    • Do you recognize any of the names of the members of the Editorial Board?
    • Do the members of the editorial board mention the journal on their own initiative?
    • Is the publisher a member of an accredited industry initiative?
    • Do they belong to the Publication Ethics Committees?
    • If the journal calls itself an open access journal, is it listed in the DOAJ or Directory of Open Access Journals?
    • If the journal is indeed an open access journal, does the publisher belong to OASPA or the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association?
    • Is the journal hosted on one of INASP online platforms (for journals published either in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Central America, Nepal and Mongolia) or on AJOL (African Journals Online, which is for African journals)?
    • Does the publisher mention being a member of another professional association?
  • Watch out for the growing number of predatory reviews and avoid contributing to their cause. 
  • In summary, choosing a journal to submit a manuscript for publication is a very important decision that deserves careful consideration. Making the best decision process involves addressing these two questions –
    • Who is the ideal audience for your research paper?
    • Which journal has a readership that best matches this ideal audience?
  • Going through this process almost always provides an added benefit – the resulting review editors are usually the best at evaluating and helping improve your work. 
  • It is recommended that you go for a reader-centered process for writing and publishing articles. 
  • If you keep readers in mind as your first priority, choosing the right journal for publication becomes a fairly simple task. 
  • Because a reader-centered writing process leads to an article written for the needs of the public, it is crucial to have a target journal in mind at the start of the writing process instead of delaying such a decision until the article is almost finished.
  • Alas, many authors approach writing and editing from an almost opposite perspective – how best to meet the author’s needs. 
  • The result is often to emphasize quantity over quality and to put the work in the hands of the people most likely to refer to the work rather than use it.
  • There should be (and often is) a lot of overlap between what’s best for the reader and what’s best for the author. 
  • But finding an “and” solution (good for the writer and reader) sometimes takes more effort than finding an “or” solution (good for the writer or reader). 
  • It is all well worth the effort. 
  • Lastly, time to publication will always be a crucial factor when publishing cutting-edge research. 
  • Most journals continue to make progress in this area, with a median time from submission to first decision of five weeks and a median time from final decision to publication of around three weeks. 
  • Whether your work requires timely publication, try to find these issues for the journal you are considering. 
  • Attending an international conference in 2023 is sure to help out tremendously in this regard. 

This article is meant to help you set your publishing priorities and choose your target journal smoothly and quickly. IFERP extends its help to research authors in selecting the right journal for their article – by researching and shortlisting the appropriate journals and explaining the difference between the choices – so that they can go with the best journal possible for their particular brand of research and objectives. Reach out to IFERP today to avail of assistance with not only choosing the right journal but also research writing, manuscript editing, journal application, peer-reviewing, and much more.