In an information-rich age, one of my main functions as a librarian isn’t helping people find material, but helping them evaluate the material they find. In the past, I’ve discussed how publishers often make it difficult for readers to learn about the review process for a particular journal, and questions authors can ask about potential publication sources.

There are tools available that can help folks learn about these these two complex issues (at least a bit).

JournalGuide (free) - JournalGuide is a relatively new resource that aims to provide information on legitimate scholarly journals. Whereas Beall’s list of predatory journals takes a “blacklist” approach of naming suspected predatory journals, JournalGuide uses a “whitelist” approach, indexing known journals of quality. But JournalGuide really goes beyond a simple “list of good journals.” It provides a profile of each journal, providing information on scope, how quickly the journal reviews and publishes papers, where the journal is indexed, open access options, page charges and more. JournalGuide provides links directly to a journals “instructions for authors” page (often difficult to find), and provides some metrics (SNIP, acceptance rate). For authors looking for new publication venues, or for authors hoping to determine whether an editorial board invitation is legitimate, JournalGuide can be a good source of quality, standardized information. Because it is still in Beta, many journal profiles are lacking in much of this information. At minimum, though, a journal profile will inform the user if the journal is “verified,” a classification JournalGuide uses to indicate a respectable journal (i.e. not a predatory one). I recently discovered JournalGuide, and am excited about its potential as an easy-to-use resource for researchers.

The profile page for the journal, The Holocene, including the "Verified" status.

Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory (subscription or print, check your local academic library) - Since 1932, Ulrich’s has been a librarians go-to source for periodical information. It is available online or in print. Ulrich’s provides subject coverage for listed periodicals (journals, magazines and newspapers) and is a quite handy source for identifying former names of journals. Information about the publisher is provided, and the online version will link directly to library catalogs. Ulrich’s will indicate if a journal is scholarly, and tell you which databases index the journal. My library has access to the print version, which can be rather unwieldy, but the online version (UlrichsWeb) is easier to use.

The Ulrich's entry (print version) for The Holocene.

Of course, you might not need to know where a journal is indexed or how fast their review process is. You may just be interested in looking up information about journal metrics. While the Impact Factor is the most widely known metric, there are many other ways of numerically evaluating a journal, such as EigenFactor, SNIP, or H-index. (Follow the links to read more about these numerical measures. I will leave a discussion of these flawed measures for another day). There are a variety of free and subscription-only tools to help you discover some of these metrics, although you typically can't find many metrics in one place due to the proprietary nature of the metric or the data needed for the calculation.

Journal Citation Reports (subscription only, check your local academic library) - Journal Citation Reports is where impact factors are officially published and discovered. The proprietary tool from Thomson Reuters lists the Impact Factor of the journals they include in their Web of Knowledge database.

EigenFactor.com (free) - Using journal citation data from the Web of Knowledge database, the EigenFactor is a algorithmic calculation. Users can drill down by category and subcategory to find journal titles in particular fields.

Google Metrics (free) - Using Google Scholar citation data, Google calculates an h-index for many journals and lists them in its Google Scholar Metrics section. Users can see the list of top journals in disciplines and subfields or search for a particular title.

CC-BY-SA Image courtesy of Flickr user Wade M.

Of course, none of these tools replaces thoughtful evaluation. In order to use any of them effectively, you need to understand how they compile (or calculate) their information, and how that effects your purpose for that information.