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Physical Therapy - Dallas

Physical therapy research guide for TWU Dallas students, faculty, and staff.

Predatory Journals and How to Spot Them

Predatory journals — also called fraudulent, deceptive, or pseudo-journals — are publications that claim to be legitimate scholarly journals but misrepresent their publishing practices.

Publishing in a predatory journal can affect your professional reputation because your work is not likely to be cited, thereby affecting your H-index score (an author metric that measures how well you are doing as an author). Publishing in a predatory journal can also make your research harder to find.

The goal of predatory publishers is to convince authors to pay an article processing charge (APC) while performing the least amount of work possible on the publisher’s side. This can include:

  • Not actually publishing accepted articles
  • Taking articles or journal websites offline without notice
  • Publishing submitted articles before authors have signed a publishing agreement.

Since many legitimate publishers will not accept previously published articles, all your hard work and research is wasted. Some predatory journals will offer to sell back your intellectual property at an exorbitant price, but I would not recommend this practice, as, ethically, they have already proven they cannot be trusted.

There is NO 100% guarantee or cast iron way of identifying a journal as being predatory or not. Predatory publishing is big business and many have become very adept at passing themselves off as genuine products. The best thing you can do is identify potential red flags and make an informed decision based on those. If in any doubt, always err on the side of caution.

Resources on Predatory Publishing

Evaluating Publications

Red Flags

  • Receipt of an unsolicited email invitation to submit a paper, especially if it contains spelling, grammatical, or typological errors, or it is unprofessional in its speech, e.g., hello Tina or hey sweetie, or if it does not contain verifiable contact information and a website.
  • The journal or publisher appears on an accepted list of predatory publishers like Beall's (see note below).
  • The website for the publisher does not list a peer-review or editorial process, or the publishing fees.
  • The title or logo of the journal and/or publisher very closely resembles an existing respected journal (typically one with a high impact factor).
  • The name of the journal does not properly reflect its origin (e.g., the journal is The International Journal of ... but all the editors and papers are from Korea).
  • The contact information for the publisher is suspect.
    • The contact phone number does not have the correct country code.
    • The physical address of the journal when pulled up on Google maps leads to a post office box, someone’s house, or an unrelated business. If it leads to an office block — look up that office block independently and verify that there is actually a printing company by the correct name listed there.
  • The publisher website features a fleet of empty journals on a wide variety of every conceivable subject. OR it is a single journal with two disparate subjects, e.g., physical therapy and humanities
  • The editorial board is either nonexistent or the same as all other journals by that publisher.
  • The website does not include official contact details of the editor or editorial board on the journal website. (If it does, check the profiles of any people listed — does their LinkedIn match the information on the website? Does the listed university have the author or editor as a professor or researcher? Are the contact emails for university domains? — beware Gmail or other emails not affiliated with places of research.)
  • The journal either does not list an ISSN (international standard serial number) or they advertise a fake ISSN.
  • An article-processing fee is requested only after your paper has been accepted. Genuine journals will want to pay regardless as it is their time and work.
  • The journal publishes all articles from authors willing to pay an APC (article processing charge), even if the article is low quality or unrelated to the journal’s topic.
  • The publisher offers an expedited (for extra cost) service, or promises a short turnaround between your peer review and publication. (This can indicate a poor or fake peer review process.)
  • The publisher requires authors to sign away their copyright to the article at the time of submission, making it impossible for the author to submit the article to another publisher.
  • The website and/or connected social media accounts are unprofessional, with grainy or skewed pictures. Check to see whether links work and go where they are supposed to.
Predatory Lists

Possible Signs of Trustworthiness

  • The journal or publisher appears on a reputable list or database, such as DOAJ, Scopus, Ulrichs, Web of Science, or ERA journal list.
  • Articles include a DOI (digital object identifier), which means that the journal paid to have a DOI assigned.
  • The publisher website clearly states publishing fees and the peer-review or editorial process.
  • The editorial board is made of experts in that particular field, and they can be verified as such through LinkedIn or university websites.
  • Contact information for the publisher is verifiable and professional -- country code matches country of origin, mailing address does not point to a P.O. box or residence.


New journals struggle to show reputation and, though genuine, may raise a lot of the above red flags. In this case, double your efforts to at least verify the credentials of the editorial board and journal publisher to determine authenticity. However, being new is also a potential red flag as predatory journals are being created all the time as their previous predatory journals have gained notoriety.