The number of journals-particularly online journals--is proliferating. How can you separate the wheat from the chaff as far as submitting your papers? It can be hard, particularly when impact factors can't indicate the quality of new journals. Impact factors are problematic for a number of reasons, so in general it’s best not to use them in isolation. What to do? If your paper is a good fit for a top tier journal like Nature or Science, it’s easy; but most papers end up at journals that are more specific to particular fields, not in top-tier general publications. So how do you decide where to send the results of your hard work? First, decide whether you want to pay the higher price (generally) for an online journal. Online journals have obvious advantages, such as getting your paper out quickly, good accessibility, and usually fewer limits on the length of text and figures. Also, newspapers and other media outlets can access the material for free and they are easily searchable, so papers published in them may get more media exposure. However, the price is often prohibitive, ranging from 1,500-3,000$ in most cases. The bottom line is that if you want the convenience of online journals, you should start budgeting in your proposals for these publications in future. Two online publications (~5,000$ total) can easily be built into a proposal budget. Alternatively, if you are at auniversity approach your dean and ask what funds they have to support online publishing fees, for the reasons listed above (good exposure, accessibility, fast turn around, etc).
When you have made the decision to go online or not, make a list of your top three journals choices, your second three, and your last three, based on the below criteria:
Don’t just use impact factor; look at the ISI index ranking that shows where the journal is relative to other journals in the same field. ISI indices take into account multiple factors.
Go to the journal websites and rule out any journal that says they take longer than 6 months to give you an answer. Online journals will often give you an answer in 2 weeks.
If going to a traditional paper journal, make sure your paper can reasonably fit the length requirements. If you would have to cut 50% of the text, the journal is likely not a good fit.
When in doubt about the journal fit, send an email inquiry to the editor. They will tell you if the paper is not a good fit and you can save 4 months of waiting for your paper to be turned down.
And, don't forget to edit your paper (or have C3 edit it) to make sure it reads well and clearly. Reviewers who are confused will vote to reject, even if your results are worth publishing.