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Predatory Publishers

An introduction to predatory publisher tactics and strategies for identifying and avoiding predatory publishers

Controversial Tells

  • Non-Western publication houses are NOT automatically predatory, despite some evaluative sites listing geographic publication as criteria. Go through these steps with all publishers, regardless of origin.
  • English grammar errors on publisher or journal websites are also not an immediate indication of predatory publishing, but when examining humanities or social sciences journals that originate in English, it might be a warning sign.
  • Badly designed websites are also not necessarily an immediate indication of predatory behavior, as long as they do not restrict you from getting essential publisher information. 
  • Don't worry if the journal doesn't appear to be in every single one of these databases, but do be concerned if it seems to absent from most or all of them.
  • Sometimes new or smaller journals are not fully indexed, but it is still safe to be wary.

STEP 1: Database Search

Journal Databases:

Trusted Open Access Publishers:

Ulrich's Periodicals Directory
  • A thorough directory of legitimate serial publications.
Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)
  • One of the most respected lists of verified open access publishers.
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)
  • The best place to start checking the legitimacy of a potential publication, DOAJ is a list of over 9,000 legitimate Open Access journals. 
International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM)
  • Association of STEM publishers with rigorous quality control inspections.
Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)
  • Publications that appear in this database have based the rigorous ethical standards of COPE and have a high chance of being legitimate.

​Journals Online through (INASP)

  • For legitimate open access journals published in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Central America and Mongolia.

Evaluative Open Access Databases:

African Journals Online (AJOL)
  • World's largest collection of peer-reviewed, African-published scholarly open access journals.

​Cabell's International

  • Includes journal whitelist, blacklist, and various other author services.
BioMed Central
  • Database with approved journals on science, technology, engineering, and medicine.

Quality Open Access Market (QOAM)

  • A marketplace for Open Access that includes qualitative rankings, publishing details, and price ranges by discipline.
PubMed Central
  • Database consisting of approved journals related to life sciences and biomedical topic and maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.


STEP 2: Investigate the Website

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If your journal did not appear in some of the databases, be sure to investigate the journal's website as thoroughly as possible. 

  • CHECK THE TIMELINE: If journals claim to accept articles for publication very quickly, they might have a compromised peer review process. Proper peer review and editing, regardless of the original quality of your work, will take several weeks minimum.
  • EXAMINE THE CONTENT: Go through the website archive and go over a few of their published articles. How is the quality of the work? Are there consistent mistakes or works broadly off the stated scope of the journal? How well does the journal archive its material?
  • REVIEW THE FEES: Check the website for information on what fees they expect you to pay. A legitimate journal often clearly lays out how much publication will cost and what this money is being used for in the publication process. Submission fees are NOT standard, but publication fees can be. If the fee also varies largely from standard publication fees for your discipline, that's a warning sign.
  • RESEARCH THE EDITORS: Predatory publishers have a habit of listing academics as members of editorial boards without their permission, not allowing academics to resign from editorial boards, and occasionally appointing fake academics to editorial boards. Search the editors online, and see if they exist. If they do, check to see if they list the journal on their personal website or CV. 

"Magnifying glass icon" by Igel B TyMaHe is licensed under CC0 1.0

STEP 3: Contact

WHEN IN DOUBT: Contact the journal and their publisher! If you have any doubts about the fees, copyright policies, or submission guidelines, a legitimate journal and its publisher should be easy to contact.

  • PUBLISHER INFO: The information to contact both the main editor AND the publisher should be clearly marked, ideally including email address, telephone number, and office address. Many predatory journals do not list publisher information at all, or simply have one email account for all contact issues. 
  • PROMPT & HELPFUL REPLY: While many academic journals are busy, predatory publishers will most likely avoid meaningful questions or simply repeat useless information already present on their website. Make sure whoever you contact fully addresses your concerns.
  • CHECK LOCATION: Predatory publishers often do not have any form of publishing office or center, and will thus list a nonexistent address or clearly incorrect building (such as a restaurant or a residential house) as their main point of publication. Run the given address through Google Maps and see what results you get. 

Printable Checklist


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