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Considerations when helping researchers (and librarians!) find a home for their research

30 March 2022 | 8 min read

By Library Connect

Woman using tablet

Top tips for helping their (and your) papers get the exposure they deserve

This article has been adapted from the articles “Finding the best home for your research” published in Elsevier’s Authors' Update in April and May 2020.

Finding the right place for research is key to reaching the intended audience, receiving constructive feedback, and being appropriately recognized. To achieve this, you and the researcher must explore article types, publication differences and support tools among other options. We’ve compiled a list of considerations to begin this process.

While this is written from the perspective of a librarian assisting a researcher, please consider it as a tool for your own work as well.

1. Harness the power of preprints

Before any researcher submits to the top journal in their field, you may want to suggest taking a minute to explore all the options. Some researchers may want to consider posting their article to a preprint server such as SSRNopens in new tab/window before submitting to a journal. This is common practice in some fields and is becoming more common in others.


“SSRN, for example, saw a huge surge in COVID related and medical preprints during and after the pandemic and is seeing growth across its 70 disciplines, including areas such as Engineering, Computer Science, Chemistry and Earth Science. Preprint submissions from social science areas such as economics, political science, management and law remain high,” says Shirley Decker-lucke, a Director of SSRN. Researchers do not need to go through peer review to be published on a preprint platform, so this is a quick and effortless way to make research publicly available. By doing so, researchers can receive feedback about their article from their peers to improve or clarify points and upload new versions as they edit. The preprint will receive a DOI (digital object identifier number) so it can be referenced properly by other publications. Researchers can decide to submit a paper to a journal after it has been live as a preprint. If preprints are submitted to an Elsevier platform, they can be shared anywhere at any time, in line with Elsevier's sharing policy.

For more information about preprints and some dos and don’ts for using and submitting, check out the Library Connect article “Preprints: best practice tips librarians can share with researchers.”

2. Consider the article type (and choose a publication accordingly!)

Sometimes a short report, rapid communication or even a case study may be more appropriate than a full-length research article – there are many ways to codify researchers’ work. You may discuss these options with the researcher to decide the best fit based on their current research.

There are many options at this stage. For example, you may suggest a results masked review article, where the reviewers do not see the results initially. This can be helpful for papers that include unusual or non-significant results to ensure that reviewer bias does not occur. Depending on the researcher’s field of study, you can suggest the open science route where they publish a registered reportopens in new tab/window. The report contains the study protocol, which goes through peer review and is given a conditional accept in the journal before conducting the data collection and analysis. This method ensures the protocol is made public as soon as possible so other researchers can see what they are working on and ensures that the peer review process is not biased due to the results of the study.

What if a researcher has research data such as datasets, methods, software, or hardware which they think would be valuable to share with the wider community? Good news: there’s a home for these types of articles, too! The article types offered vary from journal to journal, so do look at the options in the guide for authors. It’s important to get this step right. Work with your researcher to do the homework at this stage and make sure the journal of consideration accommodates what they have to offer.

3. Support researchers with tools such as JournalFinder

Once the researcher has decided on the right article type for the paper, there’s still the question of choosing the right journal for the work. One way to assist with this process is a tool designed to locate appropriate journals. Many publishers have a tool that uses the title and abstract of a paper to point researchers towards journals where they might consider submitting.


Elsevier’s offering is called JournalFinderopens in new tab/window. This software matches your title and abstract not only to the title and scope of a journal, but also to the content of articles the journal has published. This may give the researcher options that they had not previously considered. JournalFinder has been recently upgraded so you can now also filter results by open access or subscription, impact and speed of peer review as well as seeing a visualization of metrics associated with the suggested titles.

4. Use cues from their work and community

A reliable source of inspiration for submission location can be found in a researcher’s own work! Have them take another look at their reference list. Usually, the journals that they are referencing are a good indication of the journals to consider submitting their work. Researchers can expand this approach by considering popular journals used by their community. If they are unsure, have them connect with their colleagues or supervisor for advice on potential journals or strategies they used in the past.

The concept of “impact” also means something different depending on the researcher’s need from the publishing experience. Some researchers may want focus on which abstracting and indexing databases cover the journal. This indicates where their article will be visible in the research community when people search for work related to that topic. Or their work may be time sensitive, and therefore the speed of the editorial process is a crucial factor to consider. The speed of a journal is often advertised on the website. Certain editors may also influence their decision on where to submit. Be sure to discuss the factors most important to the researcher to narrow the search.

Keep in mind, if researchers are rejected from a journal, it’s possible they may be offered a transfer to another journal better suited to their work. It helps to be aware that all the editors involved in “transfer networks” have agreed to receive papers from other journals. A researcher transferring their paper to the new journal will allow them to submit quicker than starting a new submission from scratch. If the paper has gone through peer review already, they will have the option to transfer the reviewer reports also, again, saving time.

5. Consult researchers on their impact desires

The impact of a publication might well play a key role in a researcher’s decision of journal. The most complete way of assessing a journal’s impact is to consider several different metrics, however, as each individual metric has its own shortcomings. The most common measures look primarily at average citations per article, for example Impact Factor and CiteScore.


6. Double check the scope of the journal

Before a researcher decides on a journal, be sure to recommend reading the full scope (there is often more detail in the guide for authors or on the journal homepage). They may find there is a list of the areas on which the journal does (not) consider papers. It can also be good to look through some recently published articles and abstracts in the journal to see if the work matches the general area of papers being published in the journal. There might also be an editorial where the editor(s) describe what they look for in a paper – all of which will be invaluable advice and information to pass on to your researcher.

7. Decide on the publication model

Whether researchers want (or need) to publish their paper open access or subscription will naturally impact the journal chosen. Recommend checking to see if there are any requirements or restrictions imposed by the funder before submitting to a journal. Some may be required to publish open access, in a gold open access journal or via green open access, so be sure the journal chosen offers the option needed.


Good luck!

Deciding where and how researchers publish their work can have a significant impact on the audience it reaches and will help determine its real-world influence. Work with the researcher to conclude what they need from the publication. Is it speed, reach, impact, open access, inclusion in a certain indexing database or something else? Encourage researchers to take the time to choose the best fitting journal for their work and adhering to the author guidelines will give them the best chance of getting published, not to mention saving time.  When receiving a rejection, advise them that it’s best to take on board reviewer or editor comments before submitting to another journal.

We hope these tips will help you support researchers (or yourself) in getting a paper published in a home where it will reach the correct audience, advance society and deliver the recognition you deserve!