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English Literature


Assessing Journals: Qualitative Factors

Qualitative versus Quantitative

Quantitative measures like Journal Impact Factor are not always available for many disciplines, especially in the humanities.  Then you might need qualitiative criteria such as the ones described on this page.  

Peer Review - A Basic Criterion

Most academic journals are peer-reviewed, which means papers submitted for consideration are read by at least two scholars knowledgeable about the paper's topic, usually anonymously. A reviewer may accept the paper as is, accept it with recommendations for changes, or reject it. Most databases include peer-review as a filter; you can also look at a journal's "about" pages on its website. If you're still not sure, search the journal name in Ulrichsweb. Peer-reviewed journals are clearly marked with a referee icon.

Editors and Editorial Boards

Investigate a journal's editors and editorial board members. Journals usually list their names, academic degrees, and institutional affiliations, giving enough information to find their pages on institutional websites where their academic training and publications may be listed. 

Indexes and Abstracts

Every academic discipline has at least one or two indexes or databases that are essential tools for doing research in the subject. Most index publishers use some form of a selection process to determine which journals will be indexed to make sure researchers will find the most important articles. You can usually find a list of publications within any given database; or you can search for that publication title.

Acceptance / Rejection Rates

A journal with low manuscript acceptance rates means a lot of scholars vie to have their articles published there. Some disciplines offer directories of journals that include this information. For example, the Modern Language Association provides a directory of journals indexed in the MLA International Bibliography. Directory information includes acceptance/rejection rates.


Journals are generally published by one of three types of entities:

  1. University presses (e.g. Oxford University Press, Duke University Press) tend to be among the more highly regarded.
  2. Scholarly societies (e.g. Modern Language Association, American Society of Mechanical Engineers) publish flagship journals, which are also often highly regarded.
  3. Commercial publishers like Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Springer publish a huge variety of journals; if a journal is commercially published, look for university affiliations of the editorial board.

Library Collections

To find out whether libraries have to a journal, search the journal title in WorldCat. Entries will include the number of "libraries worldwide" that have the journal in their collections.

A high number of libraries (100's or 1000's) usually indicates trustworthiness. Some journals with niche subject areas may only be collected by a few universities; if those universities have respected programs in those subject areas, the journals may still be high quality.