Article selection criteria

Topic lead: Ivonne Lujano, Katie Foxall, Wendy Patterson
Last updated: 05/06/2023

The selection criteria for submissions are determined by various factors including the discipline, accepted content types, and the available human, material and technological resources. The criteria should be explicit, easily findable, available in all languages of publication and preferably embedded in both the scope webpage and author guidelines.

One of the key responsibilities of editorial board members is to define article selection criteria. These criteria may change over time depending on the editors’ research interests, social or cultural changes in the publishing landscape, emerging guidelines as well as new discoveries.

The journal should keep article selection criteria up to date and present them in plain language: clarity and transparency of presentation will help the editors deal with potential complaints, appeals and allegations.

Range of article selection criteria

The following table outlines common areas that should be included in a journal’s article selection criteria. It should be noted that selection criteria apply to both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed submissions, and key differences between these should be outlined clearly as part of the journal’s guidance.

Fit with the journal’s scope, aims and focus
  • Extent to which the submission matches the stated journal’s scope, aims and focus
  • Key criterion considered at the desk review stage, likely to lead to a desk rejection if the fit is poor or not appropriate
Fit with accepted content types
  • Extent to which the submission matches the content types accepted by the journal
  • Key criterion considered at the desk review stage, likely to lead to a desk rejection if the content type is not appropriate
Contribution to the field
  • Extent to which the submission is considered to make a unique and original contribution to the field, on a theoretical, methodological, or empirical level
  • May also consider novelty, with a negative impact on the acceptance rate of submissions that make a modest yet significant contribution
Prior publication
  • Requirement to only submit materials that are not under review in other journals, and that materials submitted have not been previously published (e.g. results, figures, and conclusions)
  • Discussion of whether preprint posting is considered as prior publication by the journal
  • Optional requirement to provide a preprint DOI or permalink for metadata linking if prior preprint posting is allowed
Alignment with ethics expectations and integrity standards
  • Extent to which the submission is in line with appropriate disciplinary standards, including both ethics and research integrity (e.g. research on humans and animals, confidentiality, privacy, management of sensitive data, copyright)
  • Can be based on the Ethics toolkit provided by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)
  • Key criterion considered at the desk review stage, likely to lead to a desk rejection in cases where obvious violations are spotted
  • Key responsibility of peer reviewers if no obvious violations are spotted at the desk review stage

Article selection process

Once a journal receives a submission, this is typically reviewed by the editorial team. Initial checks might be delivered by less senior team members, if appropriate, including basic metadata entered via the submission system as well as the completeness of the submission (e.g. appropriate file format, submission of images and tables, submission of evidence of ethical approval). The submission is then handed over to an editor for a formal decision to accept the submission for peer review or to desk reject. When desk rejecting a submission, the editorial team may provide feedback to the author(s), potentially including a recommendation to resubmit after addressing gaps or misalignment with the journal’s scope, aims and focus.

The management of research ethics is a crucial task for academic journals. Clear processes must be in place to identify and handle ethical concerns and these should be available on the journal’s website. COPE recommends that journals develop guidelines for authors, reviewers, as well as procedures for editors to identify ethical concerns and respond to them appropriately. The management of research ethics starts at the article submission stage, but needs to be considered during peer review as well as after publication, in cases where concerns are raised.

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