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Abstracting & indexing services for open access journals in humanities: beginner’s guide

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How to make an academic journal in the humanities visible to an international community? Open access is the first and very important step. But to create more opportunities to be read, cited and to attract more manuscripts, Abstracting & Indexing is essential. In this post by Marzena Falkowska and Peter Golla from the De Gruyter Online Marketing team we provide a step-by-step guide to Abstracting & Indexing for new open access journals in the humanities.

So you’ve decided to launch an open access journal in the humanities – congratulations! You must already have some ideas about how to make it a valuable, strong and widely read title. Besides the obvious – coming up with the right scope, maintaining high editorial and publishing standards, and attracting good content – another crucial factor leading to success is proper promotion. And a big part of this process is the inclusion of the journal in appropriate abstracting and indexing services. You might associate these sources of scholarly information mostly with publications in science, technology and medicine, but the truth is that these services are becoming also more and more important in the fields of social sciences and humanities. Especially since academic publishing is a crowded and thus a highly competitive environment. Simply put: if you want to give your content the opportunity to be read (and cited!), and if you want to attract more manuscripts, you have to make sure it is visible.

Step 1: Covering the basics

Although inclusion in most important and prestigious services usually takes time, you can take the first steps towards increasing the visibility of your journal soon after its launch.

It is recommended to ensure the journal is searchable via Google Scholar, the most popular search engine in the field of scholarly literature. Although not without its shortcomings and limitations, it is of significant importance for humanities journals, as they are not that well covered in Thomson Reuters products or in Scopus (to which we’ll get to a little later). Guidelines on how to prepare papers to be included in search results, can be found in Google Scholar itself. You can also refer to our article “How to get indexed by Google Scholar?”.

After having at least five papers published, you can also submit your journal to DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals), the biggest and most important online directory, which indexes quality open access, peer-reviewed journals. Being included in DOAJ is considered these days a “quality proof” for an open access journal (as opposed to predatory journals). Before you submit the application, examine the application form and get acquainted with publishing best practice and basic standards for inclusion available at the DOAJ website. In general, you need to make sure that your journal maintains widely recognized open access standards related to accessibility, openness, discoverability, reuse and author rights – and that information available at your journal’s website reflects that. Please note that registering the journal in DOAJ is one thing – another is providing metadata for the indexation purposes, which is not required, but highly recommended for visibility reasons. Tips on how to have your journal content indexed in DOAJ, can be found in DOAJ FAQ as well.

Soon after launching, you can also already try to submit your journal to EBSCO and ProQuest, as they tend to accept titles with little publication history as well. Both are large companies which provide many information products and resources aimed at libraries, other institutions, and individual researchers. Abstracting and indexing services are merely one of them. The other might also include full-texts of papers. Among the services covering humanities journals, you might those that are relevant to you, e.g. History Abstracts, Art Source, Humanities Source (EBSCO), and International Bibliography of Art, Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts or DAAI: Design and Applied Arts Index (ProQuest). Please note that in general you cannot submit a journal to a specific service. EBSCO and ProQuest editorial teams decide in which product(s) your journal will be indexed, only after you have submitted your application.

Step 2: Expanding the coverage

Once your journal has at least one full volume published, you might want to include it in specialized services which cover a specific discipline or field in humanities. These kind of services usually decide whether to accept a given journal based on its scope; they check whether it fits their subject area. This is why it is recommended to have some more content published first.

Examples of such specialized services include MLA International Bibliography, Linguistics Abstracts Online, The Philosopher’s Index, ATLA Religion Database, Religious and Theological Abstracts or RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. Also some services from social sciences, such as PsycINFO or RePEc (Research Papers in Economics), occasionally index humanities journals. There are of course more of them; since you want to reach those scholars who might be the most interested in the content you publish, a good idea would be to ask your editors and authors which services they use in their daily research work.

At this point, it is also worthwhile to submit your journal to ERIH PLUS (The European Reference Index for the Humanities and the Social Sciences). It is not in fact an A&I service because it does not index the contents of the journals – it is rather a reference list aimed at enhancing the global visibility of high quality research published in academic journals in various European languages (you can read more about its background and purpose here). Before submitting your title, acquaint yourself with ERIH PLUS criteria for inclusion and approval procedures to make sure it is appropriately prepared to be included.

Step 3: Reaching for more

Once your journal is better established and – also thanks to inclusion in above mentioned services – known more broadly, you might want to think of submitting it to the most prestigious and widely used A&I services: Elsevier’s Scopus, as well as Thomson Reuters’ Arts & Humanities Citation Index (AHCI). Besides providing greater visibility, inclusion in either of them is often used as a mark of quality in evaluation on a national level and a crucial factor in the measurement of the quality of an individual researcher’s academic output.

Towards new audiences
Towards new audiences

Please note that both Scopus and AHCI are highly selective when it comes to the acceptance of journals, and that their editorial teams perform detailed, often lengthy (lasting even up to a couple of years) evaluation based on specific selection criteria. Moreover, rejected journals cannot be resubmitted for at least the two following years. Thus, it is of crucial importance that the journal is prepared well enough before submission.

Scopus already indexes around 3,500 journals in humanities among over 20,800 journals included in total (as of 2014). Before application, the journal should be published in a timely manner (according to its stated frequency) for at least two years. Scopus selection criteria include minimum ones (peer-review content, ISSN registered with the ISSN International Centre, references in Roman script and English language abstracts and titles, publicly available publication ethics and publication malpractice statement) and more detailed, comprised of five categories (journal policy, content, journal standing, publishing regularity and online availability). It is recommended to read about those requirements carefully at Scopus’ Content Policy and Selection website and comply with them before submission. Even more detailed information can be found in Content Selection Process FAQ.

AHCI indexes over 1,700 journals in 28 subject categories. New titles are evaluated based on the Thomson Reuters journals selection process, which puts emphasis on such aspects as publishing standards, editorial content, international diversity, and citation analysis. Those criteria are used for all journals submitted to Thomson Reuters products – also those in science and social sciences – but Thomson Reuters editorial team recognizes the differences between those fields and humanities. For example, they do not expect the same citations frequency and patterns (as humanities journal articles frequently reference non-journal sources), and they do not require English language full texts in journals focusing on studies in regional or national literatures. Because of those obvious differences, humanities journals are not well suited for citation metrics. Thus, titles included in AHCI are not part of the Journal Citation Reports, and do not receive Impact Factors, like titles from Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation Index do. Sometimes, however, a journal will be included in both AHCI and SSCI (because Thomson Reuters editors decided that its scope fits both indices), thus receiving an Impact Factor published annually in the Journal Citation Reports/Social Sciences Edition.

Side note: journals accepted in AHCI are also often chosen to be included in Current Contents Connect (edition: Arts & Humanities), another Thomson Reuters product which provides access to complete tables of contents and abstracts from the most recently published issues of journals.

The steps described above are only one way to include your journal in A&I services. There are of course more possibilities, which may vary from journal to journal, and be related to its scope (broad or specialized), audience (local or international) or discipline. There are also, to give an example, national services, the importance and value of which is restricted to the country of publication only. At the same time, you should avoid services of questionable merit (especially those that calculate metrics using unclear methodology), as inclusion in them will not add to the visibility of your journal, and moreover might harm its reputation.

You should above all look around. Read, talk with librarians, publishers, authors, editors and scholars in general, and you will soon know where your journal should be included. Good luck!

Image credit: First image is a public domain picture, which author remains unknown to me. Second picture is a painting by Christian Krohg ‘Leiv Eiriksson discovers North America’, This work is in the public domain also.

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