Skip to Main Content

Understanding Predatory Publishers

This guide introduces the concept of predatory publishing and provides advice on how to identify a potential predatory publisher.

Resources, Disclaimers, Etc.

Welcome to the catch-all page. Here you'll find resources the author has found helpful, disclaimers about the limitations of the author and this guide, and on the concept of predatory publishers, as well as answers to a couple of common questions. 

Recommended Resources


If I send you the name of a journal will you tell me if it's predatory?

No.* Instead contact a librarian at your local university for help. Read on if you want to know why I don't judge journals or publishers.

* If you are at Iowa State University please contact your department or program librarian; they will be more familiar with discipline and department expectations.

Why don't you judge or keep a list of predatory journals?

There are many reasons (like how I have no interest in doing so) but most importantly creating "approve" and "disapprove" lists turns a complex topic into a false dilemma of binary choice which reinforces power inequities.¹

Other articles and sources you read while researching this topic may make appeals to irrelevant authorities (e.g., Journal Impact Factor, Web of Science, etc.) as indicators of quality, blame open access for predatory publishing, or make other questionably reasoned arguments. The truth is that scholarly publishing is a complex and fraught enterprise rooted in colonialism¹ and all that goes with it.

Personal preference also plays a large role as there are publishers that some "feel are predatory" which have an equal or greater number of satisfied authors just as there are well established, "name-brand" publishers who have been caught running paper mills and inflating open access fees and subscription prices — you must decide for yourself what behavior is 'predatory.' 

¹ The first paper listed in the Recommended Reading section does a better job of explaining and situating this than I can and is worth a read. Sadly it is not open access, and ISU does not have a subscription to the journal, but most scholars should be able to obtain a legal copy using the interlibrary loan services of their local library. 


The author of this guide holds two degrees, neither of which qualifies her to give legal advice nor to make "official judgements" on if a journal is predatory or not. This guide was created to help authors understand how predatory publishers operate, why they exist, and how to identify them so that authors can make their own judgements.

Identifying a publisher or journal as predatory isn't easy. Scholarly publication conventions are deeply tied to academic imperialism and academic colonialism which acknowledges that academics in the 'Global North' are published more frequently than authors in the 'Global South' due to having better support, funding, and infrastructure. For example, the predominance of English as the language of choice for most commercial scholarly publishers (the majority of which are headquartered in North America and Europe) introduces a language barrier for those who do not speak it as does the assumption of internet access.

Profile Photo
Megan O'Donnell
she / her
The Catalyst / 204 Parks Library