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ENG W509: Introduction to Writing and Literacy Studies

This guide was created in connection with a library instruction session in fall 2015. Please contact the librarian if you have questions.

Is your journal "peer-reviewed" or "refereed"?

Many databases offer the option to search for "peer-reviewed" journal articles - those are academic articles reviewed by the authors' peers for accuracy during the editing and publishing process.

If you are using a database that does not have this filter option, or if you find an article citation somewhere else, you can check if the article was published in a "peer-reviewed" journal or magazine by using Ulrichsweb. Search for your journal or magazine by title and look for a little black and white striped jersey icon next to its name. 


Find out about a journal's acceptance rates

Use the MLA International Bibliography database's Directory of Periodicals to look up individual journals. The Directory provides lots of information about the journal including number of articles submitted and number of articles published. To get the acceptance rate, brace yourself fellow English scholar, you're going to have to do a little bit of math! Just kidding, it's not that bad. Simply divide the number of articles published by the number of articles submitted and, voila, the acceptance rate! However, sometimes the journal doesn't provide this information or the information is only a rough estimate. Others calculate the acceptance rate based on the number of articles sent to reviewers instead of the number of total articles received.

Cabell's Directories of Publishing Opportunities also provides information on the publishing process. See the database's information for which disciplines it covers.

Impact factor and other metrics

The word "Impact" in large font

When talking about the metrics for articles and journals, it's tempting to conflate impact with quality. However, citation and altmetrics do not measure the quality of research; that is what peer review is designed to do. Instead, they are indicators for how articles, books, or other scholarly products affect the world. Metrics like the Journal Impact Factor or the h-index use citations to do this, while altmetrics use data from social media platforms like Twitter, Mendeley, and Facebook. There are many ways to measure the impact or influence of an article or journal. Our Data Management Librarian, Heather Coates, has put together slides that provide some information on various metrics. Feel free to reach out to her with questions about this content: Heather Coates.

You may have heard of a journal's impact factor. Though not a measure of quality of an article, the impact factor measures the frequency articles are cited within particular journals. It is commonly referred to in the science and social science fields. The link below from the University of Virginia Claude Moore Health Sciences Library explains how to use the Journal Citation Reports database to find out a journal's impact factor. I'm also including a link to the JCR database below.

Alternative ways of measuring a journal or article's influence are becoming increasingly available through advances in technology. Below are some brief overviews on what is referred to as altmetrics. I'm also including a link to a free tool from an altmetrics company, Altmetric. Their Bookmarklet allows you to instantly find out if there is buzz about an article in social media and other article-level metrics.

Open Access Content

Open Access LogoWhen you are affiliated with a higher education institution, you have information privilege. That is, you have access to Library-subscribed scholarly content that is not freely available on the open web. Little known fact: this access usually ends when you graduate.

Led by academic libraries and information activists, the Open Access (OA) movement provides an alternative: a bridge to to open scholarship, no matter your institutional ties. OA expands the content that is available across access barriers, and is gaining ground in the scholarly community.

OA resources will be available to you after you leave IUPUI. For more information on open access at IUPUI see the Center for Digital Scholarship website.

As you engage in your research, explore the following OA repositories:


BASE is a vast cross-disciplinary international metasearch for OA content.


The Directory of Open Access Journals covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals and aims to cover all subjects and all languages.

OpenDOAR Logo

OpenDoar is an authoritative directory of academic open access repositories. From University of Nottingham, UK.


ROAR provides up-to-date visual access to a huge database of open access repositories.

Publishing OA

When the time comes to publish your work, you may wish to consider a publisher's stance on open access. To check if a journal is published OA (🔓) or partially OA, you can use the link from the previous box to the DOAJ. To check on a publisher's copyright and OA policies, use the link below to the SHERPA/RoMEO database. I've also included a link to IUPUI's UL Center for Digital Scholarship's guidance on choosing a quality OA journal.

What about predatory publishers?

Use the "Finding a Quality Open Access Journal" link above to find useful ways to evaluate a publisher. You may have heard of a black list of predatory publishers, but that list no longer available nor was it very scientific or error-free. If you suspect you are receiving publishing offers from a scam publisher, please contact our Scholarly Communications Librarian, Jere Odell.