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Illegitimate & Predatory Publishing: About Illegitimate & Predatory Publishing

A guide to assist in the identification of illegitimate and predatory publishing.

What is Illegitimate & Predatory Publishing?

Publishers and journals categorized as "predatory" are uninterested in sharing properly cited and reviewed work or respecting the rights of authors; they are interested solely in profit and often ask authors to pay huge publishing or presenting fees. Some predatory journals claim to be legitimately Open Access, which results in scholars sometimes conflating OA with predatory practices. 

Predatory journals are the product of predatory publishers, institutions that are unethical in their publishing practices by not following proper academic and ethical standards for the publication of scholarly work. This includes lack of proper peer review, proper citation, and the charging of exorbitant fees for publications that will never be reviewed or published in the way that the publisher proposes.

Phony vs Legit Publishing

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Evaluating Scholarly Journals Infographic by Allen Press via FrontMatter (CC BY ND NC 3.0) 

Guide Editors

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This LibGuide, except where noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I determine if a journal is considered predatory?


There are a number of ways to evaluate a journal as predatory or legitimate. Be wary of publishers without verifiable contact information; short time from submission to publication, usually within days; fake editorial boards; call for submissions that arrive in a spam-like email; journals with no prominent displays of author fees; and missing or dubious statement of a peer-review process.


What is so bad about predatory publishing?


  • Without proper standards, reputable publishing is impossible to enforce. Predatory publishers flood sites with unedited and unchecked data, upon which other writers, assuming that the work has already been properly cited and proofread, can build layers of misguided analysis.

  • These publishers could disappear overnight, often because of lawsuits, abruptly ending links to their "publications."

  • Attaining a publication in a predatory journal and then being discovered by a prospective employer is often more damaging than having little to no published research, and might compromise one's future opportunities to publish.

  • Articles accepted by predatory publishers are considered to be “previously published,” and as such, legitimate publishers may not be able to accept them for publication in one of their journals.

  • Predatory journals are generally ignored or not indexed into academic databases, decreasing readership and impact.


Are all open access journals considered predatory?


No. There are many respectable open access journals that are not considered predatory. Regardless of whether the journal is subscription-based or open access, authors should research the journal in which they hope to publish.


Is it typical for a legitimate journal to contact me and request I submit an article?


It is a red flag if a publisher or journal editor approaches you to publish in their journal. Typically, the opposite occurs and the researcher pursues the journal. Spam-like email or web pages with marketing-heavy content are also signals that the journal may be predatory. Thoroughly evaluate the journal before submitting your article. When in doubt, please contact the Office of Scholarly Communications.


If an open access journal or publisher asks me to pay, are they predatory?


Not always. When your article is published in an open access journal, you will likely be required to pay an article processing charge or APC. The issues with payments arise when journals lie to you about their fees during the publication process or neglect to mention any fee (or a lack of one) on their website.


Why do I sometimes have to pay the publisher to get an article published in open access?


Open access journal content is “free” to the reader, but since open access publication does not charge users, some open access journals require a fee for publishing services and maintenance of their publication.


Are predatory journals limited to a few disciplines?


Unfortunately, predatory journals are present in every discipline.


Used from the Intro to Predatory Publishers Guide by Indiana University