Finding legitimate OA publishers

Academic researchers should make conscientious efforts to publish with journals/publishers who are publishing quality research.

While there are many high-quality, peer-reviewed open access publications, there are also journals/publishers that engage in unprofessional or unethical practices. The following guidelines are intended to help you evaluate open access publications as you consider appropriate publication venues, or invitations to serve as reviewers or editors.

Note that there is no single criterion that indicates whether or not a publication is reputable. Rather, look for a cumulative effect of more positives or more negatives. If you still have questions, please contact your liaison librarian.

Positive indicators

Negative indicators

Special attention: Thesis solicitations

Suspect the legitimacy of a publisher, journal, or conference?

Positive indicators

  • Scope of the journal is well-defined and clearly stated
  • Journal’s primary audience is researchers/practitioners
  • Editor, editorial board are recognized experts in the field
  • Journal is affiliated with or sponsored by an established scholarly society or academic institution
  • Articles are within the scope of the journal and meet the standards of the discipline
  • Any fees or charges for publishing in the journal are easily found on the journal website and clearly explained
  • Articles have DOIs (Digital Object Identifier, e.g., doi:10.1111/j.1742-9544.2011.00054.x)
  • Journal clearly indicates rights for use and re-use of content at article level (e.g., Creative Commons CC BY license)
  • Journal has an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number, e.g., 1234-5678). If you have an ISSN, it can be validated.
  • Publisher is a member of Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association
  • Journal is registered in UlrichsWeb, Global Serials Directory
  • Journal is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. As of March 2015, the DOAJ evaluates all journals before they are accepted, using the criteria in COPE Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publication (revised Nov 2015)
  • Journal is included in McGill Library catalogue, subject databases and/or indexes


Negative indicators

  • Journal website is difficult to locate or identify
  • Publisher “About” information is absent on the journal’s website
  • Publisher direct marketing (i.e., spamming) or other advertising is obtrusive
  • Instructions to authors information is not available
  • Information on peer review and copyright is absent or unclear on the journal website
  • Journal scope statement is absent or extremely vague
  • No information is provided about the publisher, or the information provided does not clearly indicate a relationship to a mission to disseminate research content
  • Repeat lead authors in same issue
  • Publisher has a negative reputation (e.g., documented examples in Chronicle of Higher Education, list-servs, etc.)
  • Aggressive requests for submissions or invitations to serve on editorial boards;
  • Lying about impact factors, indexing databases, or for being a "leading academic publisher;"
  • Using publisher names or journal titles that can easily be confused with a legitimate body or press; and
  • Little use of or non-existent quality control practices resulting in articles being accepting quickly with little or no peer review or editorial revision.

Special attention: Thesis solicitations

  • Carefully review any solicitations you receive from publishers to publish your thesis
    • Pay particular attention if you receive an unsolicited email
  • Apply the same rigour/criteria to these requests as the above
    • Is the editorial process clearly defined? Does it provide peer review etc.? 
    • Is the timeline to publication unexpectedly short?
    • Is there an editorial board? What are the credentials of the people sitting on it? 

You retain copyright of your thesis and may enter into separate publishing contracts,  however you do not want to sign away your thesis' copyright to a vanity/illegitimate press. 

Further reading: I Sold My Undergraduate Thesis to a Print Content Farm , Mise en garde – Éditions Universitaires Européennes et Presses Académiques Francophones

Suspect the legitimacy of a publisher, journal,  or conference?

If you receive an offer to submit an article, attend a conference, or sit on an editorial board about which you are unsure or if you are assessing a CV with suspect citations:

  1. Forward it to your liaison librarian. They will investigate the legitimacy of the publisher or journal on your behalf, provide advice about publishers or journals to avoid, and help you choose the best research publication in your area of research expertise.
  2. Consult with your colleagues and experts in your discipline. They will have had prior experiences that could help you, and they can certainly steer you towards legitimate venues that they have worked with before.
  3. Use the Think Check Submit checklist to assess the credentials of a journal or publisher.
  4. Use the checklists:

McGill Libraries would like to acknowledge Grand Valley State University for permission to adapt and reuse Open Access Journal Quality Indicators

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