Potential Predatory vs. Legitimate Journals: Can You Tell the Difference?

Scholarly publishing has undergone a significant transformation with the rise of the Internet. Scholarly journals are now predominantly available in electronic format rather than in traditional print formats.

This shift prompted the introduction of open access publishing – a movement that aims to provide scholarly research to researchers and the public at no cost to the reader, thus removing the cost barrier to access research.

However, this movement has also opened the door for “predatory” journals to use open access model to profit from researchers and faculty who are pressured to publish in order to receive promotion and tenure.  A comparison of the similarities and differences in characteristics of both predatory and legitimate journals could help readers and potential authors spot predatory journals more easily.

A recent article published in the March 2017 issue of BMC Medicine provides the results of just such a comparison. A cross-sectional comparison of potentially predatory, presumed legitimate open access, and presumed legitimate subscription-based biomedical journals was conducted. Roughly 100 randomly selected journals in each category was selected for this review. Each journal was evaluated on criteria within specific characteristics including:

  • Aims & scope
  • Journal name & publisher
  • Homepage integrity (look & feel)
  • Indexing & impact factor
  • Editors & staff
  • Editorial process & peer review
  • Publication ethics & policies
  • Publication model & copyright
  • Journal location & contact

The results are summarized in this infographic:


Shamseer, L., Moher, D., Maduekwe, O., Turner, L., Barbour, V., Burch, R., & … Shea, B. J. (2017). Potential predatory and legitimate biomedical journals: can you tell the difference? A cross-sectional comparison. BMC Medicine, 15(1), 28. doi:10.1186/s12916-017-0785-9

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