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Predatory Publishing

A guide on predatory publishing, legitimate journal recommendations, and open access.

What is Predatory Publishing?

Predatory publishing is an exploitative practice that uses the promise of fast, open access publication to extract money from authors and researchers. Often, predatory journals will charge high fees to publish in their journal, but provide little to no peer review, editing, or oversight of the content. In practice, this means they take money from (usually) well-meaning researchers but do not provide any of the services that a publisher is supposed to provide. This means that good research can languish in poor quality journals with little research impact, and that bad research can be easily published due to the lack of peer review or editing.

It is important to note that while most predatory publishers share certain characteristics, some of these characteristics are also shared with newly created journals and journals from developing countries. Reviewing the quality of a journal requires a careful examination and subjective appraisal of it, using your best judgment. It is also important to note that journal quality is not an indication of research quality. There are many good articles published in bad journals, and plenty of bad research published in journals with good reputations.

Characteristics of predatory publishing:

  • Soliciting for articles or asking to serve on editorial boards
    • Especially in the form of badly-edited emails
  • High author publishing fees
  • Little or no peer review of submitted articles
  • Difficult to identify names and/or contact information for journal editors
  • The website seems extremely similar to, but is not, the website of an established journal

comic about being fooled by a fake scholarly journal


Questions to consider for analyzing journals

First Contact

  • Were you contacted by email to submit an article for publication? Legitimate journals rarely solicit for articles.
  • What types of articles are accepted in the journal? Are they scholarly, peer-reviewed articles?
  • Is their email or website filled with spelling and grammatical errors?
  • Did they promise rapid publication?
    • Note that some legitimate journals are beginning to experiment with forms of rapid publication.
  • Is the email address nonprofessional or non-journal affiliated?
  • Are there upfront fees before a decision on acceptance?

Research the Journal's website

  • Is the website aimed at authors or readers?
    • Legitimate journal websites are typically designed with readers in mind first.
  • Is the language of author's information taken directly from other places?
  • Is the journal's scope too broad?
  • Are the images of high quality or are they distorted and fuzzy?
  • Where is the journal indexed?
    • Note that newly created journals, even legitimate journals, cannot be indexed until they have been established for a few years.
  • What are the author fees?
    • Of course, many well-known journals ask for very high fees for open-access publishing. Talk to a librarian for information on free and low-cost OA publishing options.
  • Is there information on how the articles are preserved long-term?

Research the Publisher

  • Can you easily identify the publisher?
  • Is there a link provided to the publisher's website?
  • Can you find the contact information for the publisher?
  • Have you heard of the publisher before?
    • It is possible for major publishers to acquire sketchy publishers, such as Wiley's acquisition of MDPI, which remains a controversial publisher. 

Adapted from Shamseer et al. (2017). Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medicine. 15:28. DOI:

The Risks of Predatory Publishing

  • The cost associated with high publishing fees
  • Your work may be subject to sub-par peer-review
  • Your publication will have low visibility and get few citations
  • Your article could disappear when the journal ceases to exist
  • Serving on questionable journal boards will lower reputation
  • Publishing in predatory journals could have an adverse affect on your professional repuatation

Useful Resources

Librarian Support

If you would like assistance evalauting journals, reach out to your liaison librarian. Librarians can help you with:

  • Reviewing email solicitations from editors or publishers
  • Analyze journal or publishers to see if they are predatory
  • Recommend safe journals to consider for publication