By Erik Bean, Ed.D.
Associate University Research Chair
Center for Leadership Studies & Organizational Research
Determining Rigor and Excellence Within Practitioner Publications
Determining Rigor and Excellence Within Practitioner Publications
Practitioner Corner Series: Practitioner Publications
Determining Rigor and Excellence Within Practitioner Publications (current article)
By Drs. Ryan Rominger and Erik Bean
In the opening article, readers were encouraged not to overlook publication through practitioner outlets. Practitioner publications were described as those which are targeted toward individuals working in their respective field, include information meant to help in the daily practice of engaging in those fields, and which may include some citations, references, and peer-review but often not as many or to the extent of academic, scholarly periodicals. However, an appropriate next question is, “How do I determine the rigor and excellence of a practitioner publication?”
If uncertain as to the legitimacy of a practitioner publication here is a quick rigor test. A). check to see at minimum that it is reputable, meaning it has existed for several years, B). is well indexed at libraries, and has information that denotes a moderate circulation and C). has some type of peer reviewed structure that is not instantaneously accepted, and D). above all, is well known to the practitioners in that field.
Now, let us delve deeper into the quick rigor test. First, it is important to denote the publication’s degree of reputability. One way to check this is to look at how long the source has been published. New publication sources are emerging daily, especially with the easy access of the internet. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for someone looking to make money to create a webpage with official-seeming language with the attempt to lure authors into publishing through that source. For example, the Journal of Leadership Studies (a journal led by the School of Advaced Studies at University of Phoenix, Center for Leadership Studies and Educational Research) has been publishing for over a decade (since 2007), and is published by a known publisher who also publishes textbooks and other academic periodicals, Wiley Publishers. The Journal of Leadership Studies has also been acknowledged as one of the top 25 Leadership Studies periodicals by Benadictine University (see the article here).
Second, it is important to check if the journal is indexed within libraries or main databases (such as ProQuest, Medline, ABI/INFORM Collection, and Business Source Complete). When checking a journal’s website, it should have an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) associated with the journal, which can help one look up the indexing of the journal in different libraries and databases. In the case of the Journal of Leadership Studies, the ISSN number is 1935-262X, and with a quick search of PsychInfo/EBSCO (Elton B. Stephenson Company) databses for the title of the journal, one sees JLS is prominently listed. As libraries increasingly turn to online, digital databases it is less and less likely that physical periodicals–academic, practitioner, or popular–will be carried. Thus, when checking a library make sure to also check the online databases. Once you find the journal, you will see additional information about the journal, including number of issues, how long it has been published, how the library has categorized the journal, the main publisher of the journal, and other pertinent information. All of this provides you with information in order to determine if the journal is reputable, and how many people might see the journal article once it is published.
Third, it is also important to look at the peer-review process for a journal. Many tier 1 or high quality academic, scholarly journals will have an extensive peer-review process. This process will include multiple reviewers who provide blind peer-reviewed feedback on the submitted article (i.e., the reviewers do not know who wrote the article). Additionally, the reviewers are other professionals in the field, often researchers themselves. For practitioner journals the peer-review process may include one or several peer-reviewers, and in some cases the reviewer may simply be the editor (depending on the quality, purpose, and frequency of the publication). The stronger the peer-review process, the more likely the author has been given feedback from fellow practitioners or scholars. This also means that the published article has ‘passed muster’ as it will, and does not include outrageous claims, illogical conclusion, or major errors in thinking or writing. After finding the journal in a database (mentioned above) there will be reference to whether or not the journal is ‘peer reviewed’ or ‘refereed,’ which are equivalent. As noted in Ulrichsweb, the Journal of Leadership Studies is refereed. (Note, you can also find indexing information through Ulrichsweb too!)
Fourth, it is important to note if the practitioner publication is well known in its respective field, by those who practice in the field. This may mean asking peers if they have heard of the publication, have themselves published in the publication, or have read articles from the publication. Another way to determine if the publication is common is to look at the impact factor (IF). An IF is calculated, in part, based on the number of other authors who have cited publications from that source. The higher the IF number, the more others have cited the publications in that periodical. By choosing a publication that is well known for your own publications, you increase the potential that your article will be viewed by others in your field, and that you will reach your target population. Additionally, a rigorous and respected practitioner periodical will have an editor and editorial board members who are known and respected within the industry. If a practitioner journal does not contain editorial board members who are also practitioners, that may be a red flag.
Now that we have covered the basics, there is one remaining issue. What about publication sources which are just beginning? Doesn’t using the ‘traditional’ sources almost guarantee that new publications sources will fail? This is an important issue to consider. It is entirely possible that a new periodical will be created, will impact the practice, will have a strong peer-review process, and which will be well managed. At the beginning, this periodical may have fewer viewers. If it is good, however, it may gain reputation and visibility within your respective field. That will be a choice you need to make.
Do you publish in a new source, hoping that it will gain momentum? Do you support the entrepreneurial spirit, and the newly emerging journal? Or, do you decide to stick with the traditional, well-known periodicals which may be a bit more difficult to publish through? Ultimately, the call will be yours as author of the publication. You can always try a well-established source, and if rejected try submitting to a newer publication source. Or, if your personal philosophy is anti-establishment, give the newer periodical a try. Remember, though, that if your goal is get your name and content out there, and also get a positive review from an academic review board, then you might want to try the established periodicals first, as that is who others acknowledge as the experts in the field.
QUICK TIPS for determining the makings of a reputable publishing outlet:
1. How long has the journal been in business?
2. Is the journal indexed in the University of Phoenix library
or other well-known databases like the Elton B. Stephenson
Company (EBSCO), ProQuest, or other well-known libraries.
3. Does the journal have a registered ISSN. Even a brand new innovative open source pay for review publication should have one so it can be tracked and indexed more prominently throughout the world and to help protect its name.
4. Open source or paid for peer review does not in of itself mean
the journal is not reputable.
5. Does the journal have a peer reviewed process? We want our scholars to have their work reviewed and regardless of the publication, such a review should be blind and include feedback from at least two peers. That process usually takes no sooner than 10 days to two months, for example and the results made available. Reviews that our instantaneous are suspicious.
6. While reputable open source publications like those from Sage do charge for peer review and are reputable with a publication track record and detailed peer review, why start with a paid publication when hundreds of others that are reputable do not?
7. Other valid journal choices could include those where references have already been published if they meet 1 through 5 above, via periodicals typically known to the academy or practice.
If you found these tips helpful feel free to share your publishing success stories here! All the best to your publication success.