Why Does Indexing Matter?

If you’ve published work in a journal before, you probably know why indexing matters. But not everyone who wants to publish a journal has a background in academia—and in this article we go over the question “why does indexing matter?” Even if you do have a background in academic publishing, you might want a refresher on what a journal index is, why it matters, and how it works.

What is indexing and why does it matter?

Broadly speaking, a journal index is a list of journals that is organized by one or more different variables. These different categories might be things like “subject area” or “discipline”. Because there are so many different ways to index journals, it’s important to be familiar with them (and broadly which apply to you). As an example, if you’re running a journal focused on psychology, you would not want to attempt to get your journal indexed by PubMed, as it handles primarily biomedical journals. Another journal like the Arts & Humanities Citation Index would be better suited to your journal.

Every index is different—they all have different readerships, different areas of focus, and in some cases may only cover certain geographical regions. For example, the Chinese Academy of Science Indexing System does not publish global content and limits itself to Chinese papers.

Increases your journal’s authority and visibility can be a direct result of getting your journal indexed. With the ways that academic publishing has changed over the last 20 years, determining the trustworthiness of publications and their publishers has grown more challenging. Getting your journal indexed will help to establish your journal as being credible. Importantly, it gives your authors a sense of basic expectations that they can have when it comes to publishing in your journal.

The process of getting indexed, or “applying to be indexed” will be covered in another article soon. Here, we’re going to go into more detail about the benefits of indexing to you and your authors.

Benefits for your authors

How does indexing help your authors? Importantly, being indexed increases the visibility of their work, but there are also other benefits. For example, in order to be indexed in the first place, journals need to have certain minimum standards. For example, they need to provide International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN) and Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) for their articles. They also need to have a publication schedule which is clearly defined (many journals publish either quarterly or monthly). A copyright policy is also required, and the inclusion of metadata for articles may also be required.

But in addition to this, there can be other elements that dictate inclusion in an index. Anything from the scope and region of publication to the actual editorial process and policies might be included. Some of these policies are easily handled by journal management systems, and is often a major motivator for their use. Being able to “step into” a system with an indexing friendly setup can help you and your authors in the long run.

Remember, it’s really important to make sure that your decisions benefit your authors. They are the bread and butter of your business.

How does indexing help your business?

Importantly, you need to understand how indexing will impact three things:

  1. Your journal’s reputation;
  2. How indexing helps;
  3. Your bottom line.

Why indexing matters is not a question that you need to address in the publication pipeline. It’s also not something that a journal management system will take care for you (though it can assist with some of the requirements). But it is something that will directly lead to your business surviving and thriving in the long run.

Your journal’s reputation

We’ve already discussed the general ways in which your journal’s reputation is critical to your success. What we haven’t discussed in great detail is how you can work towards developing a good reputation. There are many different things that you can do to influence your reputation. Some of these things are factors that you can control, such as pricing and customer experience. Other things, like reviews left by authors, might not be something that you have a lot of control over—you can do your best and hope for the best. But it’s challenging to please 100% of people 100% of the time. One area where you can take steps towards improving your reputation is by getting your journal indexed.

Having your journal indexed gives potential authors a sense of whether or not they can trust your journal. When a journal is indexed, it has met certain minimum expectations regarding things like peer review policies and ethics standards. It tells potential authors that your journal is a known factor.

How indexing helps

Indexing your journal is important because it does a few different things. For example, as noted above, it helps your reputation by showing that you are meeting certain expectations. But there are a number of benefits to having your journal indexed. Why indexing matters to authors is that it secures a higher visibility of their work. In fact, authors will often be told that they should always try to publish in an indexed journals. These are often considered to have a higher level scientific quality than non-indexed journals.

Another way that indexing can help is by making sure that your research is seen by as many people as possible. Journals in index databases are commonly where scholars, researchers, and even the public will go to find specific information.

Your bottom line

At the end of the day, your journal is a business and while there are many good reasons to contribute to the body of academic knowledge, you still need to keep the lights on and staff paid. Why does indexing matter? Because it increases your chances of developing a positive reputation which then translates to more publications. Fostering a good reputation is fostering your bottom line.

When you index your journals, you’re increasing the visibility of your journal and its reputation. You’re ensuring that your reputation improves because of the fact that you’d made the efforts needed to get indexed.

A journal is not a “get in, get rich, get out” enterprise. They take years of dedication and careful planning to be successful. Part of the dividends that a successful journal can yield happen because of careful and early efforts made by the managers and owners of a journal. Remember that if you want to be successful, you need to make sure that people want to publish with you.

Index your journals

When you index your journal, you are communicating something about your business. You are telling people that you are serious about publishing, and that you want to produce a high quality journal. This can help your business in a number of different ways.

As we explained above, authors who publish in your journal will have a greater peace of mind, knowing that their work will be indexed and accessible to others. Being diligent about how your articles get treated after getting published will ultimately benefit your business, so make sure you start off on the right foot.

D.J. McPhee
5 December 2023Posted inMarketing
Post authorD.J. McPhee