Skip to Main Content

MCOB's Guide to Predators, Prey, and OA: Evaluating Open Access Publications: Home

This guide originally created by Kathy Wheeler. Updated by Amia Baker.

About Open Access

Open Access, at its most basic, means that access to online content is provided for free. Just because a journal is Open Access does not mean it is not a legitimate journal; Open Access just makes it easier for unscrupulous publishers to develop publications that do engage in predatory practices.

Models of Open Access

Gold Open Access: Publishing your work in an Open Access journal. Your work is on a publisher's website and access to the article is immediate.

Green Open Access: Self-archiving your work in a repository such as arXiv. Your actual article  is still behind a paywall and only accessible by others if their institutions have subscriptions to the journal. Time delays may also apply.



Warning Signs

Just because a journal is Open Access does not make it predatory; OA models have simply made it easier to engage in these types of practices. The fact that a journal charges author or processing fees is also not a good indication of lack of credibility. This is why developing the skills and tools to evaluate journals is so important. When evaluating a journal for its legitimacy, look for the following red flags:

  1. The title is extremely similar to that of a reputable journal. Look out for the use of “international” in journal titles.
  2. The journal asks for a submission fee instead of a publication fee, or the information about fees is unclear or difficult to locate. Remember, legitimate journals often do charge author fees, so the presence of a fee, in and of itself, does not mean a journal engages in predatory practices; however, the information on fees should be readily available.
  3. The editorial board is very small, unlisted, or missing contact information.
  4. The acceptance rate is very high, or the journal might even guarantee acceptance.
  5. The journal promises or delivers a very quick turnaround time, sometimes days or even hours.
  6. The website may contain grammatical or spelling mistakes, broken or missing links, or be otherwise unprofessional.
  7. The journal’s claimed affiliation does not match its editorial board or location.
  8. The content of the journal varies from the title and stated scope, or the journal attempts to include an impossibly wide scope.

Hallmarks of Legitimate Publications

Just as there are red flags to look out for when evaluating a journal, there are also signs that the publication you are looking at is legitimate:

  1. The publication is included in reliable databases or indexes, such as EBSCO, Elsevier, Thomson Reuters, Scopus, Web of Science, or DOAJ.

  2. Information about publication fees and copyright is easy to find and understand.

  3. The articles are ones you would read or use in your own research, or they’ve have been cited by reputable scholars in your field.

  4. Peer review practices are clearly described.

  5. The editors provide policies for withdrawing, retracting, or removing a problematic article.

  6. New journals should have a clear mission and specific, as well as the support of a reputable publisher or academic organization.

Director, MCOB Business Library

Profile Photo
Amia Baker
MCOB Library
University of South Alabama
5811 USA Drive South, Room 240H MLRC
Mobile, AL 36688
(251) 460-7998
Subjects: Business