A Guide to Avoiding Predatory Publishers

Predatory publishers

Predatory publishers (also referred to as 'deceptive publishers') are for-profit entities that attempt to lure academics into publishing in journals that do not follow accepted best practices for scholarly publications. Ultimately, these publishers are motivated by money rather than the publication of high-quality research. Spotting a predatory journal or a predatory conference is becoming increasingly difficult. The purpose of this guide is to help you spot predatory journals and conferences. It also provides resources that can help you assess and evaluate the legitimacy of a journal or conference.

Predatory publishers usually send unsolicited email invitations to publish your work. They often address you with the wrong academic title (e.g., ‘Dr.’ when you are a PhD student). Additionally, the email may be from a person who poses as a member of the editorial board of a legitimate journal, or they may have their own journal supported by a professional looking website, ISSN, and DOI. They often promote themselves as offering Open Access publications supported by a peer-review process.

Predatory publishers adopt dishonest or coercive practices and procedures compared with legitimate journals. A deceptive publisher may publish your work but then disappear, leaving no public record of your published article. Even when they do support a website with published articles, they often request exorbitant fees for publication and may also make up charges for withdrawal or other services. Their communication is meant to both flatter and intimidate, as they pressure you to submit work on a short deadline and pay upfront or before publication.

Publishing with a predatory publisher leads to financial loss, and harms your professional credibility and reputation, with potential repercussions for tenure and promotion. Therefore, you want to be very careful before engaging with a journal that you do not know for certain is legitimate. Before publishing with any journal, do your due diligence.

Prior to submitting your work to any journal, take the time to look for:

1. Inconsistencies:
  • Check the website for unprofessional content such as spelling errors
  • What errors or inconsistencies are on the journal's website? When was the last issue published? Do they publish work that is similar to your own?
  • Where are they claiming to be indexed? Are they claiming to be indexed by certain databases?
    • o If you notice that they are not in a database that they are claiming to be indexed in, they may also be trying to mislead you in other ways.
  • Does it claim an abnormally fast turnaround time? Publishing in legitimate academic journals can take months or up to a year. If they claim can publish your work in just a couple of weeks, they may be skipping some steps.
  • Is it contacting you about an old research topic you published work on? Predatory journals usually take the contact information from published work. Compare the topic they are inviting you to publish about and the current topic of your research.
2. Filler information:
  • Is it claiming to be indexed in a database that is not an academic research database or a place you are familiar with?
    • o Claiming that it is indexed in legitimate resources such as Google Scholar, Ulrich's Web or Mendeley holds little credibility, as these are not academic research databases.
3. Look at publications:
  • When looking at articles from several issues of a journal – consider the quality of the content and copyediting – is it consistently high?
    • If the quality of the work is inconsistent, reconsider publishing in that journal.

The checklists and resources below will assist you in avoiding publishing your work in a predatory publication. If you are still not sure about the credibility of a journal, contact your Subject Librarian for more information.


The following resources can be used to assess and verify if a publisher or journal is predatory or not:

Think.Check.Submit: a series of checklists to identify trusted journals and publications prior to submitting your work. These checklists are tailored to help you assess if your article, chapter, or book should be submitted to a journal or publication.

Beall's List of Predatory Publishers: Jeffery Beall was a librarian to originally coin the term 'predatory publishing' and created a blacklist of publishers using his own criteria. The list is no longer updated by Beall, however, it is anonymously maintained. The last update to the list was March 7, 2021.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ): a directory of legitimate and high-quality journals. If a publication is included in DOAJ, consider this to be a step in the right direction, but not necessarily a guarantee on the journal being a legitimate publication. Keep in mind that not all legitimate publications appear in the directory.

Journal Citation Report (JCR): If a journal is claiming to have an Impact Factor (IF), you can check the JCR to see if the journal is listed and its corresponding IF. Every journal listed is legitimate, but like other resources, it does not include every legitimate journal - just journals with IFs.

  • Tip: If a publication is claiming to use IFs from another resource that is not the JCR, be wary. IFs are produced by JCR.

“Identifying Deceptive Publishers: A Checklist” (University of Toronto Libraries): this checklist aims to help you avoid publishing your work in a predatory publication. If the source you are looking at meets all the criteria on the checklist, do not submit.

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Predatory conferences

Conferences are designed to share research, network, and to collaborate with peers. Predatory conferences try to take advantage of this by reaching out and promising conferences in exciting locations. The details about the conference are usually very vague and the research topics are very general. They are designed to entice potential attendees into spending money on a conference that doesn’t exist.

The email invitation for a predatory conference is very similar to a predatory journal one: flattering and intimidating. While some conferences may be expensive to attend to, they often offer low-cost options for students or society members. Legitimate academic conferences sometimes also offer to cover part of the costs for the guest or keynote speakers to attend the meeting/conference. Predatory conferences on the other hand, invite you to present your work while paying high fees with no option to lower costs. Additionally, they may invite you to be part of a discussion panel or a roundtable with no offer to cover costs.

Before submitting a proposal or registering for a conference, use the Conference Evaluation Tool created by Emme Lopez & Christine S. Gaspard to assess if a conference is predatory or not. To learn more about this tool, please refer to: Lopez, E. & Gaspard, C.S. (2020). Predatory publishing and the academic librarian: Developing tools to make decisions. Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 39(1), 1-14, https://doi.org/10.1080/02763869.2020.1693205.

If you have further questions or concerns about predatory conferences, contact your Subject Librarian for more information.

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