Predatory journals and how to spot them

Published on
June 20, 2022

Predatory journals - also called fraudulent or pseudo journals - claim to uphold high quality standards in scientific publishing, while providing no or little editorial services at all. How do you recognize these journals?

Fake science as business model

Predatory journals aim to mislead authors into thinking they are a legitimate journal. However, these journals do not adhere to academic publishing standards and will publish anything as long as you pay the Article Processing Cost (APC). That they will publish anything for money is well illustrated in this anecdote published in Vox by Joseph Stromberg (2014, November 21):

The paper above, titled "Get me off your fucking mailing list,"has been accepted by the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology. .... In 2005, computer scientists David Mazières and Eddie Kohler created this highly profane ten-page paper as a joke, to send in replying to unwanted conference invitations. .... [later, Australian computer scientist] Peter Vamplew sent it to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology in response to spam from the journal. Apparently, he thought the editors might simply open and read it. Instead, they automatically accepted the paper ... and requested a fee of $150.

This low bar for publication means that articles published in predatory journals are not properly reviewed by other scientists. The information in them lacks any quality assurance and is not trustworthy.

May I still use articles from predatory journals?

The short answer is no.

These journals cannot be trusted and you should not cite them because their publications are not peer reviewed. The quality of the articles is not guaranteed. Some of these articles may appear good and sometimes they are but there is no way to be sure. You should always use reputable, legitimate scientific journals in your work.

What to look out for?

Not citing predatory journals is easier said than done. Some predatory journals are easily recognizable, but most do their utmost to look like proper journals. For example, they use names similar to established journals and design professional looking websites.

How then do you know if a journal is predatory? Here are some things you can do to check a journal’s quality:

  • Check if the publisher is listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). DOAJ is a list of credible open access journals.
  • If the publisher provides the Journal Impact Factor, try to verify it. You can use the WUR Journal Browser for this.
  • See if the journal is indexed in a major bibliographic database, like Scopus, Web of Science or PubMed. These databases have a quality check, and most indexed journals are trustworthy. Note: Google Scholar doesn't have a quality check for indexing journals.
  • You can always contact WUR Library if you are in doubt. We’re happy to help you find out if you can cite a particular journal.

See this extensive information sheet on ways to recognise predatory publishers/journals. Or check the WUR blog ‘Watch out for predatory publishers!’.


Joseph Stormberg (2014, November 21). "Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List" is an actual science paper accepted by a journal. Vox.