Helpful factors for publishing research in pediatric psychology

Read tips for increasing the likelihood of publication.

By Edward R. Christophersen, PhD, ABPP

An integral part of any research study is the ultimate publication of the data in a peer-reviewed journal. Several strategies can be incorporated to increase the likelihood of publication in a journal that will reach your preferred audience. Some of those strategies include the following:

Rather than wait until after the completion of a study to decide which journal might publish your work, careful consideration of what kind of research each journal has published in the past is an important first step. Tracking the types of articles published in each journal is facilitated by viewing the eTOCs from each issue. One of the easiest ways to stay current with the published literature is by registering for electronic Table of Contents or e-TOCs that are offered by most journals, almost all free. Some journals will also provide an abstract of each paper without the necessity of subscribing to the journal. Consider an example of the eToc registration page for the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. Table 1 includes a listing of several journals as well as whether or not each journal offers free eTOC’s, along with other important information as discussed below.

When to Pick a Journal for Publishing Your Research
Christophersen and Butt (2012) made the point that before formally beginning a research study, the author(s) would do well to identify the journal in which they intend to submit their results based upon the journal’s previous publication history. By identifying two papers from the same journal that use somewhat similar methodology to conduct research on similar topics, the authors can raise the probability, prior to starting their data collection, that the journal may accept their research.

A second, and equally important consideration, is “what audience are you trying to reach with your research?” Whether you would like to reach other pediatric psychologists, or pediatricians can determine where you submit your manuscript for the first review. Once you have decided which audience you want to reach with your work, then consideration can be given to both the “Impact Factor” of the journals that you are considering, as well as the “Subscription Rates” and the “Acceptance Rates” of those journals. These factors are discussed below, with examples provided in Table 1.

Impact Factor
Impact Factor is a measure of citation rate per article, and is calculated by dividing one year’s worth of citations to a journal’s articles published in the previous 2 years by the number of major articles (e.g., research papers, reviews) published by that journal in those 2 years.

Subscription Rates
An alternative measure of the impact of a journal is the subscription rate. One of the largest of the Journals published in the U.S. is the Journal of the American Medical Association ( JAMA ) with 315,000 subscriptions. One of the most widely read journal in the world is the New England Journal of Medicine with over 600,000 subscriptions and over 13 million online views. Pediatrics has 55,900 subscribers, primarily members of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Contrast these figures with the approximate number of subscribers to the Journal of Pediatric Psychology of approximately 1,700 or the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis with approximately 2,500 subscribers.

Acceptance Rates
In the journals surveyed for this article, acceptance rates ranges from 9 percent for JAMA to 36 percent for the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. A manuscript submitted to one journal is four times more likely to be accepted than if it were submitted to another journal. The higher the acceptance rate of a journal, the greater the likelihood that a manuscript submitted to it for review will be accepted for publication. There is almost an inverse correlation between subscription rates and acceptance rates which can rather easily be explained by the number of manuscripts submitted to a journal.

Pre-registration of Clinical Trials
A clinical trial has been defined as any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes. Health-related interventions include any intervention used to modify a biomedical or health-related outcome (for example, drugs, surgical procedures, devices, behavioral treatments, dietary interventions, and process-of-care changes). Health outcomes include any biomedical or health-related measures obtained in patients or participants, including pharmacokinetic measures and adverse events. Ten of the leading medical journals in the U.S., including Pediatrics and Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (now called JAMA – Pediatrics ) have a policy of requiring that all clinical trials, including behavioral interventions, be pre-registered on a government website, prior to enrolling the very first participant (DeAngeles, et al., 2004). Now it is possible for virtually any researcher or clinician to search the government website and easily (relatively) identify all clinical trials on a given research area. The search will include active, closed and pending clinical trials. Completed clinical trials will also have information on whether or not the research has been published. See the preregistration website. While you are doing your literature search prior to beginning a research study, you can also conduct multiple searches to identify other studies in your same area that may not have appeared in the published literature yet.

Trials must have been registered at or before the onset of patient enrollment for any clinical trial that began patient enrollment on or after Feb. 1, 2007. If you are contemplating conducting an intervention trial, regardless of what kind of intervention (medication trial, behavioral interventions, single subjects versus random controlled trials), serious consideration should be given to preregistration of your research prior to collection of any data.

One additional consideration that many authors may overlook is the need to include references to the journal to which you are submitting your manuscript. In addition to the considerations that most researchers give to the preparation of their work for publication, the authors should cite relevant studies that have previously been published in the journal to which they are considering submitting their work. This is particularly important when revising a manuscript for submission to a second journal after the first journal declines to publish the research. If two similar articles have been published in the journal, then the author has an idea of how to organize their manuscript, the types of experimental designs and the types of statistical analysis, the figures, the tables, and the references that are more likely to be accepted.

Time spent deciding where to publish a research paper prior to starting data collection on that project is time well spent. Rather than wait until after the completion of a study to decide which journals to submit your manuscript, careful consideration of what kind of research each journal has published in the past is an important first step. Tracking the types of articles published in each journal is facilitated by viewing the eTOCs from each issue. The point to keep in mind is that there is more to publishing a paper than the way the research is conducted. Well published authors know that it is not unusual to get either an outright “Rejection” or a “Revise and Resubmit,” so when submitting a manuscript, these are both options that you will experience over time (T. Palermo, personal communication, April 8, 2014). An author can usually raise the likelihood that their research will result in a publication and subsequently be well cited by taking into consideration the factors discussed here including acceptance rates, subscription rates, impact factors, and proper searches to identify what research has already been published in the area.

Table 1: The Impact Factor, Number of Subscribers, Acceptance Rates and availability of eTOCs for several journals


Impact Factor

#of subscribers

Acceptance Rate


New England Journal of Medicine





Journal of the American Medical Association





Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry










Child Development





JAMA – Pediatrics





Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders





Behavior Therapy





Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology





Journal of Pediatric Psychology





Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Heptology, and Nutrition





Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics





Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis





* These figures were not available from the journals.


Christophersen, E.R., & Butt, Z. (2012). A Primer for Career Development and Promotion: Succeeding as a Psychologist in an Academic Health Center. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings , Supplement to December, 2012, issue and available online from the APAHC website.

DeAngelis, C. D., Drazen, J. M., Frizelle, F. A., Haug, C., Hoey, J., Horton, R., et al. (2004). Is this clinical trial fully registered?—A statement from the International Committee of Medical editor. New England Journal of Medicine, 352 , 2436–2438.