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Academic Publishing Demystified

This guide has been developed specifically for graduate students who wish to learn more about academic publishing.

What is a predatory publisher?

In recent years, the number of exploitative predatory publishers (and conferences) has grown. These publishers typically send unsolicited invitations to authors offering to publish their research for a fee; however, they do not offer any of the traditional services provided by reputable publishers or conferences, such as editing, peer-review, archiving and marketing. They may also solicit researchers to sit on their editorial boards, or graduate students to publish theses or dissertations.

Predatory conferences operate similarly, soliciting scholars to submit materials to conferences that are organized solely for profit.  These conferences may be poorly organized and typically do not offer peer review, or they may not actually take place at all. 

It is important for all academic authors to be aware of these predatory entities, as trying to withdraw submitted materials once they've been submitted is usually very difficult.  

This page offers resources, such as checklists and guides, to help authors evaluate publishers and conference organizers. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Bottom line: if you receive an unsolicited request from an unfamiliar source, proceed with extreme caution.  If you're at all unsure, please contact a librarian for assistance.

A consensus definition of predatory publishing established in 2019:

"Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices." (Grudniewicz et al., 2019)

Predatory publishers

Tools for evaluating the reputability of publishers

If you are uncertain of the quality or credibility of a journal or publisher, here are a few things to investigate:

  • Review past issues of the journal. Is the writing and research of good quality, is it relevant to the aims and scope of the journal, and has it been copy edited adequately?
  • Does the journal have a clear and appropriate scope?
  • Are editorial board members clearly listed, recognized subject experts, and is their current contact information listed?
  • Is the peer review process employed by the journal clearly described?
  • Are author fees (e.g. article processing charges, colour charges, page charges) clearly and transparently described?
  • Are any impact metrics (e.g. impact factor) listed by the journal recognized and reputable? Predatory publishers often list bogus or made-up impact metrics. Check with a librarian if you're not sure.

For more information:

For graduate students: Be skeptical of publishers who approach you to express interest in publishing your recently completed thesis or dissertation.  These publishers are essentially a print-on-demand vanity publisher.  While you will not have to pay a fee, you are unlikely to ever receive anything from the publisher. 

More importantly, you will have transferred your copyright to this publisher and therefore will be unable to publish your work with legitimate publishers in future.


Unless otherwise noted, content is this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License