The top nine questions on predatory journals – answered!

In the course of researching a book on predatory publishing, Simon Linacre wanted to find some answers to common questions on the subject. In his latest blog post, he shares why straightforward is never easy when it comes to this controversial topic.

Have you ever wondered where those questions come from near the top of a Google search? Headlined ‘People Also Ask’ (PAA), the feature was introduced by Google in 2015 to aid search activities, and, according to, the feature now appears in around half of all searches. The algorithms that trigger the feature seem to work more with searches based on questions and that include multiple keywords, and now form part of the standard toolbox of any digital marketer, as it opens up a wider range of sites than the top three hits at the top of a Google search engine results page (SERP).

For academic researchers, the feature is probably both a benefit and an irrelevance. While it may help some to gain a wider understanding of what kinds of questions are being asked about a topic – and it certainly helped me in this regard – it will also annoy others with much more sophisticated skills and needs for their search activities, where being sent down a potential blind alley is something to be avoided.

But do the questions posed by the algorithm any use? To put it to the test, here are the top nine results to the question, ‘What is a predatory journal?’, which was posed on Wednesday 23rd June 2021. The initial question reveals four results (see Figure A), clicking on the first answer reveals a further two (Figure B), and clicking on the second question reveals a total of nine questions (Figure C). These questions will differ depending on which question is clicked, as the algorithm seeks to provide further related questions to the initial one that was clicked on.

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Each question provides a summary answer and link through to the original web page, which will inevitably vary greatly in how useful they actually are. Some sources are blogs, some university library guides, and others Wikipedia. What is perhaps concerning is the direction the questions take, in that it is not the sources per se that provide worrying information, but the questions that are posed in the first place, presumably from an algorithm based on usage data and relevance to the questions being asked. So, to try and set the record straight in our own small way, here are some short and more realistic answers to the nine questions Google puts forward as most relevant to the predatory journal question:

Q. What is meant be predatory Journal?

Wikipedia supplies as good a short description as any, with the addition that there is rarely if any peer review at all: “Predatory publishing is an exploitative academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without checking articles for quality and legitimacy, and without providing editorial and publishing services that legitimate academic journals provide, whether open access or not.”

Q. How do you know if a journal is predatory?

Common indicators include fake claims of an Impact Factor, lack of information/lies about the Editorial Board, and unrealistic promises of a fast turnaround.

Q. What happens if you publish in a predatory journal?

It stays published – retraction is highly unlikely, and to try and republish the article in a legitimate journal will only compound the problem by breaching publication ethics guidelines.

Q. What is a predatory journal a journal published over Internet?

Predatory journals began life by taking advantage of online publication as well as the Open Access model – both things were simply combined to create the right circumstances for predatory journals to evolve.

Q. Why are predatory journals bad?

Predatory journals do not check the validity or accuracy of submitted research but present it as if they have. As a result junk science, propaganda, and faked research can appear and be accessed by other academics and the general public alike, causing confusion and potential harm to anyone adopting that research for another purpose.

Q. Is PLOS ONE a predatory journal?

No, not at all. PLOS ONE like many so-called ‘mega-journals’ publish large numbers of articles based on a light-touch peer review that nevertheless checks the validity and accuracy of the research articles submitted.

Q. How can you detect and avoid predatory journals?

Research the topic and use the many guidelines provided by university libraries around the world. You can also use Cabells’ own criteria it uses to identify them for inclusion in its Predatory Reports database.

Q How many predatory journals are there?

There are currently 14,647 journals listed on Cabells’ Predatory Reports database.

Q. What is the warning sign that a journal or publisher is predatory?

In addition to the common indicators listed above, other more superficial signs can include poor grammar/spelling, very broad coverage of a topic, or solicitation of article submissions with excessive flattery in spam emails.