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Research Guides
Western Carolina University

STEM Faculty: Predatory Publishing

Predatory publishing in a nutshell

Predatory publishing is the the act of luring scholars to publish in journals of questionable quality.  The tactics employed by predatory publishers are often aggressive and make unrealistic and/or unbelievable promises - in exchange for a fee.  Predatory publishing is often associated with the open access (OA) publishing model, but there are also publications from so-called traditional publishing models who act in bad faith. Not all OA publishers engage in predatory practices, many OAs publish high-quality, vetted and thoroughly reviewed works.

Where to check

Red Flags: Journal Website Information

Does the journal’s website or solicitation email:

Red warning flag with shark fin.

  • Provide the correct URL for the journal’s website?
  • Claim indexing in well-known databases (especially SCOPUS, DOAJ, JCR, and Cabells) that is unfounded or untrue?
  • Have a clearly stated peer review policy?
  • Provide complete open access to ALL articles, unless the publisher explicitly states their journal is not completely Open Access (AKA a hybrid journal)? 
  • Have a written copyright policy?  Is it well written and easily understandable? 
  • Lack a transfer of copyright form or have a form that does not actually transfer copyright?
  • Make clear their Article Processing Charges (APC)?  These are different from page charges for figures, photos, or illustrations.
  • Is the APC exorbitant?
  • Indicate there are additional charges for illustrations, etc., in addition to the APC?
  • Make promises for rapid publication and/or very quick peer review? For example, do they promise a two-week turnaround from time of submission to time of publication?
  • Use poor grammar and/or spelling across the journal’s website?
  • Using poor grammar, poor spelling, and excessive or effusive praise in the solicitation email?
  • Is the journal’s website organized well?  Do links work and can you navigate easily from page to page?
  • Does the place of publication (i.e., country) match the contact details on the website?
  • Does the journal report an impact factor from a well-known and reputable source? 
  • Are you able to locate and read other articles from this journal easily? 
  • Does this journal have a valid ISSN?
  • Stated aim or scope is unrealistic?  Is the aim/scope unstated or vague?

Red Flags: Organization & People

Can you, through the journal’s website:

Red warning flag with shark fin.

  • Identify the publisher or publishing group?
  • Identify a physical address (that you can confirm) for a publisher? 
  • Locate the journal editor's name and/or the names of members of the editorial board? Once you have identified these individuals, do their personal pages (either institutional, ResearchGate, LinkdIn, etc.) acknowledge this editorial affiliation?
  • Find information regarding editors or members of the editorial board; do they have expertise in the subject area and have verifiable credentials?
  • Find multiple ways to contact the journal and/or the journal’s editor?  Or do you find a generic email address with no other information regarding the journal’s mailing address?  Or is it simply a form?

Red Flags: Miscellaneous

Do you find:

Red warning flag with shark fin.

  • That this journal sends unsolicited emails to individuals instead of issuing a call for proposals (CFP)?
  • In solicitation emails, is the journal description overly broad and include many dissimilar topics?
  • That colleagues have never heard of this publisher and/or journal?  That they have had a negative experience with this publisher?
  • This publisher is in Cabells under the “Predatory Reports” section?
  • This journal indexed in Ulrich’s Periodical Directory?  Does the indexing section include databases that are considered standard in the field (e.g., found in Web of Science, EBSCOhost databases, etc.)?
  • The journal acceptance rate is at or near 100%?  Or the journal acceptance rate is significantly higher than similar, well-known journals?
  • This journal uses metrics that are not standard in the field or standard for other similar journals?
  • The number of articles published per issue is excessive in comparison with similar, well-known journals?


Persuaid from the Noun Project for the original flag (the flag on this page is modified).

Resources consulted for predatory information and additional recommendations on red flags include Tulane University, The University of Texas at San Antonio, and California State University, Northridge.