Indicators of Quality in Publications - From Outsider to Insider in Scholarly Publishing - Writing as Professional Development

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Indicators of Quality in Publications
From Outsider to Insider in Scholarly Publishing
Writing as Professional Development

Peer reviewers and editors perform what is generally referred to as a “gatekeeping” role. This means that they apply standards of quality to manuscripts and render decisions about what meets the criteria for inclusion in a journal or book. Just as a real estate agent advocates for the seller, peer reviewers and editors advocate for the reader and the publication. Their primary concerns are to the field, the publication itself, and its readership. So, even though editors rely on the contributions of authors to generate a high-quality publication, their first obligation is to maintain the quality of the outlet. Complete the activity in Activity 12.1 as a way to begin the discussion of quality control.

Activity 12.1: Quality Criteria

This task will help you to take a step back from the emotionally-charged situation of having a manuscript rejected. Imagine that you are invited to serve as a judge in a contest. The purpose of the competition is to evaluate office chairs designed by various manufacturers. Think about the criteria that you would use to award first, second, and third prize to a large assortment of chairs. Make a list of your criteria.

Did your list include such features as the quality of the materials? Durability? Comfort and ergonomics? Adherence to contest rules? Assembly/joinery? Beauty? Each of these has a corollary in manuscripts. For instance, the quality of materials is akin to the content of a manuscript, durability is the timelessness of the message, comfort/ergonomics is the match with the audience, adherence to rules is following the guidelines for contributors, assembly/joinery refers to how the manuscript is organized, and beauty is comparable to the aesthetic features of the writing such as flow, precision with words, and ability to engage the reader.

If you actually were judging the relative merits of chairs, the sponsors of the event would no doubt provide some criteria and the process might differ from one situation to another. The same holds true where judgments of manuscripts are concerned—the quality of the publisher affects the rigor of the review. Figure 12.1 is an overview of the quality indicators of scholarly journals. The criteria for scholarly books are much the same.

Fig. 12.1 Indicators of quality in scholarly journals (Note: Based on Wellington & Torgerson, 2005)

Basically, there are two types of journals that may be considered as possible outlets for articles: peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed (Hames, 2007). A peer-reviewed journal has independent reviewers who critique the work and the editor renders the final decision. For non-peer-reviewed outlets, the editor alone decides or editorial staff members meet and make the decision together.

Online Tool

Read “How to Choose a Journal: Scientific and Practical Considerations” for sage advice on selecting a suitable outlet for your work (Babor, Moirsano, Stenius, Winstanley, & O’Reilly) at

Many times, when faculty members submit evidence that they have published a journal article, they will be asked questions about the outlets so that a university-wide committee can gauge the status of the journal. Some common questions are:




The Joint Committee of Quantitative Assessment of Research (Panaretos & Malesios, 2008) went so far as to say “Using the impact factor alone to judge a journal is like using weight alone to judge a person’s health” (p. 2). Nevertheless, a high impact factor does tend to impress.

In order to stay in existence, what is published needs to fill a niche, have an audience, and—even for nonprofit organizations—be fiscally supportable. As Wang (2007) notes, “the competition among periodicals and the ever emerging new ideas compel every journal toward constant innovations” (p. 160). Any submission that does not fulfill these goals is apt to be rejected.