Selecting your journal for publication

The process of publication should really start when your research project starts. By virtue of setting out your stall about what your research is hoping to achieve, you should start thinking about who might want to know about the research question that you answered. For EMULSION this was tricky, because we’ve actually discovered a whole load of interesting stuff that we hope that is interesting to a whole range of stakeholders including patients, prescribers, GPs, commissioners, NHS managers, policy makers and even the government! This isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s just about getting the right outputs to the right forums. For publications however, the key is selecting the right journal for your work which will reach the right audience. However, there is also an annoying emphasis on journal impact factors in academia, so sometimes you also need think about the prestige of the journal you’re aiming for rightly or wrongly.

For EMULSION, finding a journal for our guideline analysis was particularly tricky. Not having a particular therapeutic area to pin the research to (cardiovascular, dermatology etc.) or even a setting (as we included both primary and secondary care) really made finding the right journal quite difficult. Our search for a journal also threw up a lot of questions about what the research actually was. Was this a systematic review? Was it a piece of primary research? Was it a document analysis? The answers to these questions have implications in terms of the word count that you might be expected to stick to and also the level of reporting requirements. For example, if it is a systematic review there are strict criteria in terms of meeting checklist requirements (see link below for the different types of these that exist). You may also be surprised to hear that we had one occasion where it was clear that those involved in peer reviewing our article didn’t know that unlicensed medicines even existed!

In the end, we tried several journal titles to try and find one that would consider our work within its remit. Here they are and the result of our efforts:

  • BMJ Quality and Safety in Healthcare (rejected) – RejectedDeemed out of scope of journal
  • Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy RejectedDeemed too narrow in focus for readership
  • European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology – RejectedStandard not deemed good enough for competition
  • Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice – RejectedLots of criticisms of methodology as not ‘rigorous’ enough
  • International Journal of Pharmacy Practice Accepted!

Quite a lot of the problems we had finding a home for the EMULSION guideline analysis were linked to the unusual methodology (guideline analyses aren’t widely reported), the controversy surrounding unlicensed medicines and the fact that medicines legislation is country specific. Thankfully, the IJPP were able to recognize the value of our work and worked with us to make it a worthwhile article for their readership (more on that later in a future instalment on reviewer’s comments).

Useful links

Research study checklists for publication:

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