Journal impact factors: To cite, or not to cite?

At a brainstorming session on academic publishing at TAA’s June 2012 conference, a participant asked how to determine the most prestigious journals in which to try to publish. The panel’s advice: study the journal impact factors.

An impact factor is widely regarded as a measure of the journal’s importance in the particular disciplines which it serves. A journal’s impact factor is a measure of the average frequency with which articles in a given journal’s publication year are cited in that and other journals during the subsequent two years. The rationale is, roughly, that the citation rate of articles in a given journal, compared with the rate of “competing” journals, gives a metrical measure of that journal’s perceived importance in the discipline. Seems simple enough, but perhaps not.

Think of yourself as a writer

Authors need to understand the process by which their manuscript will be evaluated and take that into account when they submit. If a smart recent college graduate can’t decode what your book is about, you’re in trouble.

When I graduated from college I hoped to land a job working on a dude ranch in Wyoming. Instead, I fell into a career in scholarly publishing, acquiring books for Oxford University Presses. I realize now that as an editor I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to the prose. I cared more about the ideas than about how well they were expressed, at least that’s what I told myself. It wasn’t true.