Yellow tape reading "Danger" outside a construction site

What does a predatory journal look like?

Predatory journals are dishonest publishing ventures that mimic the academic publishing model in order to collect money from naive or desperate academics. I have written elsewhere about some of the features of such journals, but the truth is that –just like pornography– predatory publishing is hard to define and easy to recongise. So what I want to do in this post is share an example of a predatory journal.

As is typical for such pseudo-academic enterprises, this journal came to my attention through an unsolicited Facebook message inviting me to contribute my work to them. Here’s what it looked like.

Call for Research Papers, Interviews, Book Reviews, Poems n Short Stories for LANGLIT: An International Peer Reviewed Open Access Journal ISSN 2349 – 5189.. (Vol.2 Issue 1) Deadline for Paper Submission: 10th Aug 2015  Date of Publication : 30th Aug 2015 [redacted] Sincerely hope that you will contribute..

Some red flags

Super-fast publication

A clear sign that this journal attempts to deceive prospective authors and readers is the claim that it is peer-reviewed. Typically, peer review lasts several months. However, the time from submission to publication in this journal is merely 20 days, which is too short for meaningful peer review and corrections.

Article Processing Charges

To their credit, the publishers are reasonably upfront about their Article Processing Charges. The privilege of placing your work in their journal will only set you back 500 Indian Rupees, which is about 7€ (£5, $8, or a few thousand Greek Drachmas should things go south). This sets them apart from the worst of predatory journals, but does little to improve their academic standing.

Poor content

The journal misrepresents its content, when stating that they publish “high-quality written works presenting original research with profound ideas and insightful thoughts”. A cursory glance through their latest issue (vol. 1, issue 4) shows that it contains approximately 150 (!) main submissions, plus a few dozens of interviews, short stories (e.g., A Cyborg Shipwrecked on our Shore) and poems (including Bliss of Love, Eternal Love, Love’s Sake and Proud Sacred Love). Of the papers in the issue, only one was empirical, in the sense that I understand the word, and –at the risk of sounding snobbish– it failed to impress me.

Poor presentation

From the looks of it, the article processing charges for this journal do not include a proofreading service. Here’s a sample of the content.

Sample Author Bio

I have discussed this journal with Jeffrey Beall, who curates an authoritative index of predatory publishers, and he concurs with my assessment. You can now find LangLit in his list of standalone potential, possible or probable predatory journals. (update: Sadly, Beall’s list is currently defunct).

Still thinking of publishing your work in a predatory journal?

You may think that there’s little harm done by submitting a unambitious paper you may have written to a journal that has a credible-sounding title and only charges a modest fee. If that is the case, I would encourage you to think twice.

First, such a publication would harm your reputation, and the merits of the paper would be lost because of its association with bad research and mediocre poetry. Moreover, once published in a bogus journal, a paper is unpublishable elsewhere, and that includes future revisions. Not to put too fine a point to it, research published in a bogus journal is wasted. Finally, there are better ways to gainfully spend even a small amount of money. For example, you could buy reference materials, or donate to charity that supports teacher development in under-resourced settings.

As for your article, you might consider sending it out to one of many excellent open-access journals that do not charge publication fees. Alternatively, if your work doesn’t fit their publication needs, you can always share it in a blog post!

About this post: This post was originally published in June 2015. It was updated in December 2020 (refocussing, new headings). The featred imade is “Danger” by Shawn Carpenter @ Flickr, and it is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution & Share Alike license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Achilleas Kostoulas
Achilleas Kostoulas

Achilleas Kostoulas is a language teacher educator. He teaches applied linguistics at the Department of Primary Education at the University of Thessaly, Greece. Previous academic affiliations include the University of Graz, Austria, and the University of Manchester, UK (which is also where he was awarded his PhD). He was the (co)editor of Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, and is a regular reviewer of several academic journals and publishers.

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