Selecting a journal: How to find a suitable journal for publishing research results

In-house and external requirements

Selecting a suitable journal is the first task in the publication process. In many cases it is the faculty or the head of a research group that stipulates which journal is most suitable for publishing research results. The first step in selecting a suitable journal should therefore be to check your institution's in-house requirements.

When it comes to publishing research results that have emerged from externally-funded projects, it is increasingly likely that the funders will also have stipulated certain requirements. These typically constitute a requirement to make the results openly accessible. Some funders now issue mandates stipulating the extent to which results from externally-sponsored projects must be published as open access. It is always a good idea to check the funding conditions of the respective project or submit an enquiry to the funding body.

As a rule, publishing research results is not mandatory. There are also special conditions for projects whose results are subject to confidentiality or non-disclosure provisions.

See also

Selecting a journal: What requirements do funders impose in regard to open access?

Selecting suitable journals for publication

There are a number of different ways of searching for appropriate journals. This section includes advice on how you can find the right journal for your needs.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

The DOAJ currently lists some 13,000 open access journals. Searches can be conducted by subject area and other criteria. 

The DOAJ only lists journals run in accordance with the open access business model which do not impose any charges on either readers or their institutions. Journals in the directory must also allow users to read, download, copy, distribute and search for articles and allow users to link to the full text of each article. In addition, the DOAJ will only consider journals which are issued regularly – in other words more than once a year – and which have introduced a quality assurance system. Quality assurance is either guaranteed by the publishers and/or by a peer review process. The journal issues must be consecutively numbered and dated and contain individual articles. 

The DOAJ only lists journals which are reported to it by the publishers, so the list is not necessarily exhaustive. 

Electronic Journals Library (EZB)

The Electronic Journals Library contains a list of digitally published journals. Thanks to its advanced search capabilities and options for restricting a search to specific subject areas, the EZB is also a useful tool for searching for suitable journals to publish in. By restricting your search to journals which offer free access to full texts, you can also ascertain which journals are open access. The entry for each journal specifies whether it is an open access journal, and you can find more detailed information on the journals' individual websites. The EZB provides links to make it easier to access these websites. Thanks to a cooperative venture with the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), the EZB also indicates journals that are available in the DOAJ. 

Web of Science

To track down a suitable journal in the multidisciplinary Web of Science database, it is advisable to enter relevant keywords from the subject area and check which journals publish articles on this topic by consulting the "Refine Results" section on the right beneath "Sources".

Clarivate Analytics now offers on its website a search form for finding open access journals covered by the Web of Science. Go to overview

Web of Science requires institutions to obtain a licence for the database and can only be used by users who are within their institution's IP range or accessing it via remote access while roaming.


Another alternative to Web of Science is the Scopus database which also lists journal articles from a range of different subject areas. Scopus also allows you to enter keywords to narrow down your search results. And the "Browse Sources" option makes it possible to restrict your journal search to specified subject areas. Here you can choose to display Open Access journals only.

Scopus requires institutions to obtain a licence for the database and can only be used by users who are within their institution's IP range or accessing it via remote access.

List of journals in PubMed Central

Another useful tool for searching the realm of life sciences is the list of journals provided by the PubMed Central database, the electronic archive run by the National Library of Medicine (NLM). This also provides information on the embargo period enforced by each journal before articles become open access. 

Journals published by ZB MED

Through its German Medical Science (GMS) platform, ZB MED publishes a range of open access journals for professional bodies which form part of the German Association of Scientific Medical Societies (AWMF).

Selected open access publishers and publishers with an open access programme in the field of life sciences

Academic Journals
Bentham Open
BMJ Open 
BioMed Central
Copernicus Publications
De Gruyter Open Access
Elsevier Open Access Journals
Hindawi Publishing Corporation
Medknow Publications
Oxford Open 
PLoS One 
PLoS Medicine
Taylor & Francis Open Journals
Wiley Open Access

Hybrid business model

Many publishers offer to publish subscription journal articles as open access articles in return for payment of an open access publishing fee (APC) in order to meet requirements stipulated by funders, for example. This is known as a hybrid open access business model. More information on the conditions involved and the journals that offer this option can be found on each publisher's website. 

The hybrid business model enables open access publishing in journals which are not full open access. More and more publishers are now offering this option. Authors interested in publishing their article in a journal that is not full open access should make enquiries to find out what options are available. 

Note: The hybrid business model is controversial since there are fears that fees may end up being paid twice through subscriptions and through publication fees, a situation known as "double dipping". For this reason, these hybrid journals are not included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The hybrid business model has become generally accepted, though some research funders are not willing to sponsor publications in journals that are funded by the hybrid business model.

Selected academic publishers with life sciences programmes and open access options

Inderscience Publishers
Karger Author’s Choice
Oxford Open
Sage Choice
Springer Open Choice
Wiley OnlineOpen, for authors from German institutions also see the Wiley DEAL information page

See also

Publication fees: what are the different ways of covering publication costs?

Launching a journal

Not all subject areas are covered by existing journals, especially in disciplines that are developing dynamically all the time. Launching a new journal is a valuable approach in these circumstances. ZB MED supports the launch of new journals through a range of services offered by its publication portal PUBLISSO.


Important note: The information and links provided here do not represent any form of binding legal advice. They are solely intended to provide an initial basis to help get you on the right track. ZB MED – Information Centre for Life Sciences has carefully checked the information included in the list of FAQs. However, we are unable to accept any liability whatsoever for any errors it may contain. Unless indicated otherwise, any statements concerning individual statutory norms or regulations refer to German law (FAQ updated 07/2019).


Jasmin Schmitz,

Dr. Jasmin Schmitz
Head of Publication Advisory Services

Phone: +49 (0)221 478-32795
Send mail

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