In this section, we will look at the aims and scope, which provides the key information about the journal - why it exists, what it aims to achieve, and what it is looking for from submissions.
This information will most likely be found on the homepage of the journal, or in a dedicated tab, and is usually named Aims and Scope, About or similar.
As we indicated in the introductory module, understanding the Aims & Scope of a journal is critical to getting past the first hurdle of editorial review, and on to the peer review process. Failure to properly fit the subject scope of the journal or to help it further its editorial aims are common reasons for immediate rejection of submissions.
To clearly understand it, you should investigate the journal website and read sample articles, especially from recent issues. You may also find it useful to read some Editorials from previous issues. Taking the time to do this will provide you with valuable information.
Here are some of the most important elements of the aims and scope to look out for:
STATEMENTS ABOUT NOVELTY OR CONTRIBUTIONS
Does the journal state that it accepts only the most ground-breaking papers, or those which make substantial theoretical advances? This information may not be signalled as clearly as this, but look for clues in language with words such as “advances in understanding”, “further our understanding of a subject” or similar.
This may seem obvious, but is an aspect which many authors misinterpret. Is it a broad scope, multi-disciplinary journal without any specific subject focus, such as PLoS, Nature or RIO? Does it focus on a wide-ranging domain, such as Trends in Food Science & Technology? Or does it cover a niche area in a specific field, such as Foodborne Pathogens and Disease or Meat Science? Be sure your paper adequately and wholly addresses the subject of the journal.
This is a potentially confusing element, and one which benefits from close attention. An international journal may be interested in papers from anywhere in the world, but in what regard? The journal may be happy to receive any and all papers from around the world, focussed on any topic, and any population. The journal may be interested in papers focused on something relevant to populations local to the author, or the relevance may have a more broadly international relevance or application.
Take a look at the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition as an example, and see what 'International' means for this particular journal, in terms of population and demographics.
Similarly, journals named as regional might publish work which focuses on a country or geographic area, or may simply be based in that country.
International journals may also be interested in research with an international authorship, and involve an international range of participants and data.
The aims and scope may also state the intended readership and community of the journal. Some applied journals may feature research that is directly useful for industry or manufacturing, or farming processes. The primary readership of a journal may not reflect the authors submitting to it. See if you can find this information in the aims and scope. Is the journal intended for primary researchers? Is it a society journal, in which case, does it have only a limited readership of members, or is it more widely accessible and influential? Is it intended for public sector, industry, or people working in applied settings.
Make notes of all these aspects for each of your journals of interest. For the paper you are currently writing, or looking to submit, consider how well your methods, sample populations and conclusions relate to the aims, scopes and readership of a journal, to understand whether it is suitable.
Some journals enable you to submit a cover letter alongside your article. In this circumstance, understanding how your paper contributes to the journal's aims and scope will help you pitch the value of your paper. This may help it be considered in more detail, and with a more careful reading than a submission with a more generic, or no, cover letter.