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Predatory Journals

Learn about predatory publishing and tips on how to evaluate journals for your article submissions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Predatory Journals

Predatory journals are the product of publishers, known as predatory publishers, who are unethical in their publishing practices by not following industry standards, usually aggressive in manuscript solicitation tactics, and deceitful about their business operations and services. "They exist primarily to extract fees from authors" (Sorokowski et al. 2017, 481) and are far less concerned with research and publishing ethics (Beall 2017, 275).

There are a number of ways to evaluate a journal as predatory or legitimate. Be wary of publishers without verifiable contact information; short time from submission to publication, usually within days; fake editorial boards; call for submissions that arrive in a spam-like email; journals with no prominent displays of author fees; missing or dubious statement of a peer-review process (Beall 2013, 3; Butler 2013, 435; INANE 2014, 3-5). Check the journal title against the titles in Cabell’s Journal Blacklist. When in doubt, please contact your liaison librarian.

The literature cites a blog created and maintained by Jeffrey Beall that listed journal titles and publishers with suspicious predatory behaviors. “Beall’s List” was officially named “Scholarly Open Access” but was taken down in January 2017 due to threats of legal action and political pressures. (Beall 2017, 273; Is it legal? 2013, 155). In July 2017 the publisher, Cabell, released their subscription database Journal Blacklist. Conversely, there are also lists and publications of legitimate journals (Berryman et al. 2016). Please feel free to consult with your liaison librarian for assistance in evaluating a specific journal.


  • “They threaten research by failing to demarcate authentic science from methodologically unsound science…” (Beall 2017, 276).
  • “… researchers might establish their new research based on bogus and manipulated papers.” (Dadkhah, Lagzian, and Borchardt 2017, 181).
  • “… these publishers could disappear overnight and with it would go all the previously published research which could have been genuine.” (Natarajan and Nair 2016, 107).
  • “… attaining a publication in a predatory journal is not neutral on a CV or resume but an active demerit that harms the external reputations of all those involved.” (Clark and Thompson 2016, 1).
  • Articles accepted by predatory publishers are considered to be “previously published,” and as such, legitimate publishers may not be able to accept them for publication in one of their journals, assuming that the predatory publisher releases them for publication elsewhere (Dadkhah and Darbani 2016, 574).
  • “Predatory journals are generally ignored, causing any legitimate science within them to be lost.” (Dadkhah and Darbani 2016, 574).


It is a red flag if a publisher or journal editor approaches you to publish in their journal. Typically, the opposite occurs and the researcher pursues the journal. "These [predatory] publishers often send out flattering individualized email solicitations to potential authors inviting them to submit manuscripts or serve as "guest editors" for their journals." (INANE 2014, 2). Spam-like email or web pages with marketing-slick appearances are also signals that the journal may be predatory (Berryman 2016). Thoroughly evaluate the journal before submitting your article. When in doubt, please contact your liaison librarian.

Simplistically, the early days of the Internet (1990s) spawned an Open Access movement. Supporters of this movement felt that research should be freely available, thus bypassing publishers of the traditional, paper production and subscription payment model. The Open Access movement gained world-wide acceptance when international bodies declared that non-compensated research articles should be “available online, free, and with the smallest possible number of usage restrictions.” (The Declaration of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002; the Bethesda Statement on Open Access publishing, 2003; and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, 2003). Publishing is a business, and revenue generating models changed from subscriptions to author fees, called Article Processing Charges. As authors began to fund the publishing model in place of subscriptions, unethical, opportunistic publishers appeared, whose sole purpose was to generate revenue. As the unethical publishers honed their trade, the resulting predatory system of more articles, published faster, with no review or evaluation, was established (Beall 2017, 274; Liesegang 2013, 425).

No. There are many respectable open access journals that are not considered predatory (Butler 2013, 434). "While predatory journals are almost always Open Acess, most Open Access journals are far from predatory." (Roberts 2016, 618). The important thing for authors to do is research the journal in which they hope to publish.

No. Some legitimate research may be found in predatory journals; some articles may have accidentally been published in predatory journals (Dadkhah and Darbani 2016, 574). However, it is difficult to differentiate the sound research from the unverified without an honest peer-review process.

When your article is published in an open access journal, you will likely be required to pay an article processing fee. Open access journal content is “free” to the reader, and the method publishers have established to recover some of the publishing costs is to charge the authors in place of a subscription model. This is known as the “gold” standard (Beall 2016b, 1511).

Authors who are in a hurry to have their research published often fall prey to predatory tactics. Faculty whose institutions require large quantities of publications, or quotas, are also at risk (Beall 2013, 6). New and inexperienced faculty, especially outside of the United States, are also susceptible to the lures of predatory journal publishing (Clark and Thompson 2016, 1; Al-Khatib 2016, 283).

The literature is full of predatory publishing warnings in all disciplines: Business, Medicine, Nursing, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Library Science, Technology, are just a few.

Impact factors are a measurement of how often a particular article has been cited by other researchers. These numerical ratings are included in databases such as Scopus or World of Science. However, predatory journals have been known to claim a high impact factor when, in fact, the number has simply been fabricated (Berryman 2016).

Gold, green, and platinum are terms relating to models of open access publishing. The gold model is when the author pays for the article to be published by an external publisher. The green model is when the author self-archives on a personal web site or an open repository, including institutional repositories. The platinum model is when the open access publication of an article is funded by a sponsoring organization, usually the sponsor of the research that results in the publication (Beall 2013, 2).

Beall defines a hijacked journal as one “where someone has set up a site pretending to be an already established, reputable journal,” when in fact this site is a portal to the predatory publisher’s door (Beall 2016a, 79).

The appearance of a journal title in a library database index does not guarantee that it is not a predatory journal. Research has revealed that some predatory journals on Beall’s List have appeared in library databases (Somoza-Fernandez, Rodriguez-Gairin, and Urbano 2016, 736; Nelson and Huffman 2015, 189-90).

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