Academic journal

Academic journal

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An academic journal is a peer-reviewed
Peer review
Peer review is a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility...

Periodical publication
Periodical literature is a published work that appears in a new edition on a regular schedule. The most familiar examples are the newspaper, often published daily, or weekly; or the magazine, typically published weekly, monthly or as a quarterly...

 in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique
Critique is a method of disciplined, systematic analysis of a written or oral discourse. Critique is commonly understood as fault finding and negative judgement, but it can also involve merit recognition, and in the philosophical tradition it also means a methodical practice of doubt...

 of existing research. Content typically takes the form of articles presenting original research, review articles
Review journal
A review journal in academic publishing is a periodical or series that is devoted to the publication of review articles that summarize the progress in some particular area or topic during a preceding period.-Types:Review journals can be divided by...

, and book review
Book review
A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review could be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. It is often carried out in periodicals, as school work, or on the internet. Reviews are also often...


The term academic journal applies to scholarly publications in all fields; this article discusses the aspects common to all academic field journals. Scientific journal
Scientific journal
In academic publishing, a scientific journal is a periodical publication intended to further the progress of science, usually by reporting new research. There are thousands of scientific journals in publication, and many more have been published at various points in the past...

s and journals of the quantitative
Quantitative research
In the social sciences, quantitative research refers to the systematic empirical investigation of social phenomena via statistical, mathematical or computational techniques. The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and/or hypotheses pertaining to...

 social sciences
Social sciences
Social science is the field of study concerned with society. "Social science" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences usually exclusive of the administrative or managerial sciences...

 vary in form and function from journals of the humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

 and qualitative
Qualitative research
Qualitative research is a method of inquiry employed in many different academic disciplines, traditionally in the social sciences, but also in market research and further contexts. Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such...

 social sciences; their specific aspects are separately discussed.

Scholarly articles

In academia
Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

, professional scholars typically make unsolicited submissions of their articles to academic journals. Upon receipt of a submitted article manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

, the journal editor determines whether to reject the submission outright or begin the process of peer review. In the latter case, the submission becomes subject to peer review
Peer review
Peer review is a process of self-regulation by a profession or a process of evaluation involving qualified individuals within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards, improve performance and provide credibility...

 by outside scholars of the editor's choosing who typically remain anonymous. The number of these peer reviewers (or "referees") varies according to each journal's editorial practice — typically, no fewer than two, and usually at least three outside peers review the article, producing reports that inform the editor's decision. These reports are generally confidential but some journals or publishers also practice public peer review. The editor uses the reviewers' opinions in determining whether to publish the article, return it to the author(s) for revision, or to reject it. Even accepted articles may be subjected to further (sometimes considerable) editing by journal editorial staff before they appear in print. Typically, because the process is lengthy, an accepted article will not be published until months after its initial submission, and publication after a period of several years is not unknown.

The peer-review process is considered critical to establishing a reliable body of research and knowledge. Scholars can be expert only in a limited area of their fields; they rely upon peer-reviewed journals to provide reliable, credible research upon which they can build subsequent, related research.

Review articles

Review articles, also called "reviews of progress," are checks on the research published in journals. Some journals are devoted entirely to review articles, others contain a few in each issue, but most do not publish review articles. Such reviews often cover the research from the preceding year, some for longer or shorter terms; some are devoted to specific topics, some to general surveys. Some journals are enumerative
In mathematics and theoretical computer science, the broadest and most abstract definition of an enumeration of a set is an exact listing of all of its elements . The restrictions imposed on the type of list used depend on the branch of mathematics and the context in which one is working...

, listing all significant articles in a given subject, others are selective, including only what they think worthwhile. Yet others are evaluative, judging the state of progress in the subject field. Some journals are published in series, each covering a complete subject field year, or covering specific fields through several years.

Unlike original research articles, review articles tend to be solicited submissions, sometimes planned years in advance. They are typically relied upon by students beginning a study in a given field, or for current awareness of those already in the field.

Book reviews

Book review
Book review
A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review could be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. It is often carried out in periodicals, as school work, or on the internet. Reviews are also often...

s of scholarly books are checks upon the research books published by scholars; unlike articles, book reviews tend to be solicited. Journals typically have a separate book review editor determining which new books to review and by whom. If an outside scholar accepts the book review editor's request for a book review, he or she generally receives a free copy of the book from the journal in exchange for a timely review. Publishers send books to book review editors in the hope that their books will be reviewed. The length and depth of research book reviews varies much from journal to journal, as does the extent of textbook and trade book review.


An academic journal's prestige is established over time, and can reflect many factors, some but not all of which are expressible quantitatively. In each academic discipline there are dominant journals that receive the largest number of submissions, and therefore can be selective in choosing their content. Yet, not only the largest journals are of excellent quality. For example, among United States academic historians, the two dominant journals are the American Historical Review
American Historical Review
The American Historical Review is the official publication of the American Historical Association, established in 1895 "for the promotion of historical studies, the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts, and the dissemination of historical research." It targets readers...

and the Journal of American History
Journal of American History
The Journal of American History is the official academic journal of the Organization of American Historians. It covers the field of American history and was established in 1914 as the Mississippi Valley Historical Review, the official journal of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association...

, but there are dozens of other American peer-reviewed history journals specializing in specific historical periods, themes, or regions, and these may be considered of equally high quality in their specialties. This also may be the case with interdisciplinary journals, whose focus is on the intersection of two or more disciplines or specialties.


In the natural sciences and in the "hard" social sciences, impact factor
Impact factor
The impact factor, often abbreviated IF, is a measure reflecting the average number of citations to articles published in science and social science journals. It is frequently used as a proxy for the relative importance of a journal within its field, with journals with higher impact factors deemed...

 is a convenient proxy, measuring the number of later articles citing articles already published in the journal. There are other, possible quantitative factors, such as the overall number of citations, how quickly articles are cited, and the average "half-life" of articles, i.e. when they are no longer cited. There also is the question of whether or not any quantitative factor can reflect true prestige; natural science journals are categorized and ranked in the Science Citation Index
Science Citation Index
The Science Citation Index is a citation index originally produced by the Institute for Scientific Information and created by Eugene Garfield in 1960, which is now owned by Thomson Reuters. The larger version covers more than 6,500 notable and significant journals, across 150 disciplines, from ...

, and social science journals in the Social Science Citation Index
Social Sciences Citation Index
Social Sciences Citation Index is an interdisciplinary citation index product of Thomson Reuters' Healthcare & Science division. It was developed by the Institute for Scientific Information from the Science Citation Index....


In the Anglo-American humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

, there is no tradition (as there is in the sciences) of giving impact-factors that could be used in establishing a journal's prestige. Recent moves have been made by the European Science Foundation to rectify the situation, resulting in the publication of preliminary lists for the ranking
A ranking is a relationship between a set of items such that, for any two items, the first is either 'ranked higher than', 'ranked lower than' or 'ranked equal to' the second....

 of academic journals in the Humanities.

In some disciplines such as KM
Knowledge management
Knowledge management comprises a range of strategies and practices used in an organization to identify, create, represent, distribute, and enable adoption of insights and experiences...

Intellectual capital
The value of an enterprise is made of physical assets, various financial assets and, finally, intangible assets, i.e., intellectual capital . The term intellectual capital conventionally refers to the difference in value between tangible assets and market value. ....

 the lack of a well-established journal ranking system is perceived as "a major obstacle on the way to tenure, promotion and achievement recognition" .

The categorization of journal prestige in some subjects has been attempted, typically using letters to rank their academic world importance.

We can distinguish three categories of techniques to assess journal quality and develop journal rankings :
  • stated preference;
  • revealed preference; and
  • publication power approaches .


Many academic journals are subsidized
A subsidy is an assistance paid to a business or economic sector. Most subsidies are made by the government to producers or distributors in an industry to prevent the decline of that industry or an increase in the prices of its products or simply to encourage it to hire more labor A subsidy (also...

 by universities or professional organizations, and do not exist to make a profit, however, they often accept advertising, page and image charges from authors to pay for production costs. On the other hand, some journals are produced by commercial publishers who do make a profit by charging subscriptions to individuals and libraries. They may also sell all of their journals in discipline-specific collections or a variety of other packages.

Journal editors tend to have other professional responsibilities, most often as teaching professors. In the case of the very largest journals, there are paid staff assisting in the editing. The production of the journals is almost always done by publisher-paid staff. Humanities and social science academic journals are usually subsidized by universities or professional organization.

New developments

The Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 has revolutionized the production of, and access to, academic journals , with their contents available online via services subscribed to by academic libraries. Individual articles are subject-indexed in databases such as Google Scholar
Google Scholar
Google Scholar is a freely accessible web search engine that indexes the full text of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines. Released in beta in November 2004, the Google Scholar index includes most peer-reviewed online journals of Europe and America's largest...

. Some of the smallest, most specialized journals are prepared in-house, by an academic department, and published only online — such form of publication has sometimes been in the blog format.

Currently, there is a movement in higher education encouraging open access, either via self archiving
To self-archive is to deposit a free copy of a digital document on the World Wide Web in order to provide open access to it. The term usually refers to the self-archiving of peer-reviewed research journal and conference articles as well as theses, deposited in the author's own institutional...

, whereby the author deposits his paper in a repository
Repository (publishing)
A repository in publishing, and especially in academic publishing,is a real or virtual facility for the deposit of academic publications, such as academic journal articles....

 where it can be searched for and read, or via publishing it in a free open access journal
Open access journal
Open access journals are scholarly journals that are available online to the reader "without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself." Some are subsidized, and some require payment on behalf of the author.Subsidized journals...

, which does not charge for subscription
Subscription business model
The subscription business model is a business model where a customer must pay a subscription price to have access to the product/service. The model was pioneered by magazines and newspapers, but is now used by many businesses and websites....

s, being either subsidized or financed with author page charges. However, to date, open access has affected science journals more than humanities journals. Commercial publishers are now experimenting with open access models, but are trying to protect their subscription revenues.

See also

Further reading

  • Deis & Goodman. "Update on Scopus and Web of Science Charleston Advisor
  • Waller, A.C. Editorial Peer Review Its Strengths and Weaknesses ASIST monograph series. Information Today, 2001. ISBN 1-57387-100-1.

External links