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How To Avoid Predatory Publishers and Conferences

Common Practices of Deceptive Publishers

While there is no single criterion that points to whether or not a publication is legitimate, this website and checklist will cover some of the typical practices used by deceptive publishers. An accumulation of negative indicators can point to a deceptive publisher or publication.

Identifying Deceptive Publishers: A Checklist (PDF version)

Process and Timeline

Article Processing Charges (APC)

Website and Contact Information

Scope or Subject Matter

Indexing, Impact Factor and Archiving

Affiliation/Publication Ethics and Policies

Editorial Board

For more information, see the video entitled Identifying Predatory Publishers (University of Manitoba Libraries, Aug. 29, 2018)


Process and Timeline Icon PROCESS AND TIMELINE

Much of this information can be found in author guidelines or instructions. This information should be clearly presented and address quality control processions, style or formatting, copyright, and other journal policies (e.g. corrections or retractions).

  • Publication is guaranteed
  • The time of submission to publication is unexpectedly short
  • Peer review process is unclear, lacking information, or not apparent
  • There is minimal information about the various steps in the process from submission to publication
  • The journal requires copyright transfer during the submission process.
    • Copyright is typically transferred after the acceptance of the manuscript. Most open access journals will apply a Creative Commons (CC) license to the research that allows for reuse and remixing; in many cases, the author will retain copyright. If a journal isn't using CC licenses, terms of use and reuse should be clear.
  • The journal does not follow a regular publication schedule

Article Processing Charges Icon ARTICLE PROCESSING CHARGES (APCs)

Many open access journals ask for Article Processing Charges (APCs), and this is a normal, acceptable practice. Legitimate journals will always ask for payment after acceptance, and their fees are clear and easily available. 

  • APC payment is required before acceptance
    • APCs are generally paid post-acceptance but pre-publication. You should not be asked to pay for an APC before the peer-review process begins. These charges should be clearly listed on the publisher's website.
  • It is unclear what fees will be charged
    • In some fields, a modest submission or membership fee is charged at the time of manuscript submission. These fees fund editorial or peer review. In other cases there are post-acceptance fees, which might include page, colour, or figure charges. The amount and purpose of any additional fees should be clearly outlined on a journal's website or policies. Look for unconventinal charges such as "handling fees". If you aren't sure, check with colleagues about acceptance practices. 

Website and Contact Information Icon  WEBSITE AND CONTACT INFORMATION

The journal's name is easily confused with another better known journal in its field

  • Confirm that the publication's ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) matches the title and country of publication that is listed at

The publisher cannot be easily identified or contacted

  • Consider looking for contact information including a telephone number and mailing address and check to see that the contact information aligns with the journal's other claims (i.e. the telephone number area code matches where the journal is based, the mailing address is not a private residence). Most publishers will have a general email account you can contact; be wary of email addresses that may be non-professional or have no affiliation with the journal (i.e., a Gmail or Yahoo email address).

The journal website looks amateurish or unprofessional

  • You may find that the journal's website is poorly designed and difficult to navigate, including dead links, as well as spelling and grammatical errors. While many legitimate journals may be poorly funded and lacking professional websites, errors and broken links are indicators that warrant a closer look at the journal.

Scope or Subject Matter Icon SCOPE OR SUBJECT MATTER

The Journal lacks a well-defined scope, subject area or mission

  • Journals generally have a clearly defined scope and focus on a fixed set of topics

The articles published do not match the title and stated scope and/or the journal title

  • For example, a nursing journal that publishes geology papers.

Indexing, Impact Factor and Archiving INDEXING, IMPACT FACTOR AND ARCHIVING

The journal is not indexed where it claims to be nor where you would expect to find the subject content

  • This is verifiable information. Consider the database that you use to find research (e.g. Scopus, Web of Science, Sociological Abstracts, or PubMed, etc.). Is the journal included in these indexes? Use Ulrichsweb to identify where the journal is indexed e.g., engineering journals should be indexed in Compendex.

Note: Google Scholar, Sherpa Romeo, ORCID and scholarly networking sites like ResearchGate are not indexes.

Claims about impact factor are not verifiable

  • Deceptive publishers may list fraudulent metrics such as the "Global Impact Factor" (GIF), Index Copernicus or "Universal Impact Factor" (UIF). These are not based on recognized methodologies.
  • Recognized metrics include Clarivate's Journal Impact Factor (JIF) and Elsevier's CiteScore among others. McMaster University Libraries offer licensed resources such as Journal Citation Reports and Scopus to verify this information. Visit the Making an Impact: Tracking Your Research Metrics guide for more information.

Note: Not all journals are indexed in these resources and newer journals may not have journal level metrics available.

The journal website does not provide access to previously published volumes or has volumes that are incomplete.

Editorial Board Icon  EDITORIAL BOARD

Please note it can be very difficult to verify who is on an editorial board, so it is good to cross-check to ensure the information is accurate.

  • Members of the editorial board do not mention the journal on their own websites or public CVs
  • There is no information about the editor or the editorial board on the journal's website
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