Module 2

Scientific journals

A scientific journal is a collection of articles written by scholars in an academic field. An editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be accepted. Articles in scientific journals usually cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research. Since journals are published on a regular or periodic basis they are grouped in the category called "periodicals." Electronic journals, called e-journals, are published on the Web by scholarly organizations and publishers and are made available to you from the ITC library web pages.

A scientific journal article is an original contribution that appears in a published scientific journal.

We distinguish two types of scientific journals:

ISI journals

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) is part of Thomson Scientific, a commercial scientific information provider, which includes the search engine and citation index Web of Science and the Journal Citation Reports (JCR) available via the ITC library website.

The ISI selects among all the journals a list of so-called ISI journals. Many institutions and organizations, including ITC, only give credit to researchers for papers published in thee journals.

There are currently about 9 000 ISI journals in all fields, about 3 700 of them in the sciences. These are selected from a much larger group of candidate journals by expert editors by a holistic process.

The selected journals are referred to as ISI journals, and are listed in the master journal list and in the Journal Citation Reports (JCR).
Papers in these journals are included in three Citation Indices, including the Science Citation Index, also from Thompson. These are the primary searchable databases to find references.

The practical point for the beginning researcher (e.g. in an MSc project) is that ISI journals have been evaluated as:

  • reliable (especially their quality control and editorial policies), and
  • important (i.e. their papers are cited by other researchers)

so articles in ISI journals should be used in preference to those in non-ISI journals if possible

Examples of ISI Journals:

  1. Canadian Journal of Remote Sensing (Canadian Aeronautics & Space Institute)
  2. GIScience & Remote Sensing (Bellwether Publishing, USA)
  3. IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters (IEEE)
  4. IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Applied Earth Observations and Remote Sensing
  5. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing (IEEE)
  6. International Journal of Remote Sensing (Taylor & Francis)
  7. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (Elsevier Science for ISPRS)
  8. Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing (American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing)
Non-ISI journals

Recalling the standard to qualify as an ISI journal (selectivity, review process, reputation of its editorial board, international diversity of its authorship; importance of its papers) there are journals that fail some of these (e.g. not diverse, not important) yet still have good quality control.

Thus there may be useful information in their papers. For example, as of 28-April-2009 there were 2 082 journals published by Springer, of which 794 were listed in JCR; this is a ratio of about 38%. So only a bit over 1/3 of the journals from this well-regarded publisher are ISI.

This is especially true for non-ISI journals published by regional or national societies whose main reason for omission from the ISI list is their narrow geographic focus. Papers in these journals may include valuable information, especially about local conditions, for example in a study area.


You may use a Scientific journal

  • when doing scholarly research.
  • to find out what has been studied on your topic.
  • to find reference lists that point to other relevant research.


Examples of scientific journals

Further reading: Peer review: a guide for researchers

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