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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 515-517
Journal indexing: Myths and facts

MD; FIC Path; MIAC, DHA, Professor, Department of Pathology, Rohilkhand Medical College and Hospital, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, India

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Date of Submission14-Oct-2020
Date of Acceptance14-Oct-2020
Date of Web Publication28-Oct-2020

How to cite this article:
Agrawal R. Journal indexing: Myths and facts. Indian J Pathol Microbiol 2020;63:515-7

How to cite this URL:
Agrawal R. Journal indexing: Myths and facts. Indian J Pathol Microbiol [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Nov 27];63:515-7. Available from:

New authors usually would like to see their manuscript being submitted to any journal that will accept or publish it very soon. However, when they apply for a job in a reputed institute or otherwise the facts come to light that the quality of the journal in which the publication was made was either low or it was a non-indexed journal. To save that embarrassment, this editorial was framed giving the readers an insight into some of the facts and simultaneously remove the misconceptions associated with indexing of journals.

Authors search for indexed journals to publish their articles more so since it has become a mandatory requirement for further promotions of teaching faculties as well as postgraduate students before appearing for their final exams in medical colleges and institutions. A journal needs to establish itself as a trusted source of research, with a consistent citation history and a review process that follows the standard protocol before it can be considered for indexing. Indexing is an ordered list of cited articles, each accompanied by a list of citing articles. The citing article is identified as the source and the cited article as the reference. The journal contents are searchable using the keywords, names of authors and coauthors, the title of the paper, abstract, etc., in the available database. Being represented in the relevant abstracting and indexing services is a key factor for the success of a journal.[1] Not only the authors but also the editors desire to see their articles or journals included in the standard bibliographic sites. There are several abstracting and indexing services available today. Some are affiliated with institutions (e.g., PubMed maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine [NLM], the USA at the National Institute of Health) while some are provided by publishers (e.g., Scopus by Elsevier). All major indexing bodies serve different motives and different emphases. There are databases that index journals from various disciplines, such as the citation index, and there is a more specialized index such as Index Medicus (IM) that index mainly journals related to medicine.

Indexing is a database of scientific journals having a good track record of maintaining the ethical concerns as well as the quality of publications. Indexed journals are considered to be higher in terms of quality when compared with any non-indexed journal. They have better visibility thus helping quality papers being submitted to the journal. The authority and reputation of the journal also get improved. All these factors further increase the impact factor of the journal. An indexed journal is one that is indexed in various databases, depending on the scope of that journal. A citation index is a bibliographic database, allowing the user to easily search the manuscripts that cite the earlier published articles.[2] Currently, there are four major online bibliographic sites – MEDLINE, PubMed Central, Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), and Scopus.[3] Inclusion of a journal in MEDLINE confers a mark of quality on the published material; PubMed Central gives greater access to open access contents; ISI provides an official impact factor while inclusion in Scopus gives a better picture of journal metrics and provides H-Index indicating productivity and citation impact. There are certain non-abstracting and indexing services that many publishers claim to be indexed in such as Scribd Cabelles Directories, slide share Google Docs, Open J-Gate, and New journal.[3] Let us look into the details of some of the indexing agencies and search engines.

In 1960, Eugene Garfield's ISI introduced the first citation index for papers published in academic journals, first the science citation index (SCI), and later followed by social science's citation index and the arts and humanities citation index. The first automated citation indexing was started by “CiteSeer” in 1997.[4] The SCI's database has two aims – firstly, to identify what each researcher has published and secondly, where and how often the papers published by that particular researcher are cited. SCI's electronic version is called “Web of Science.” SCI and SCI-expanded are published by ISI as part of Thomson Reuters.[4] ISI is a citation index and creates a greater emphasis on the journal's citation history than MEDLINE, which is more focused on assessing the quality of the published content. Today, all searches are done online, therefore, it is important that a journal is represented in the relevant online search system.

Scopus published by Elsevier is a bibliographic database containing abstracts and citations of articles published in an academic journal. It covers nearly 21,000 titles from over 5000 publishers and is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, scientific journals, books, and conference proceedings delivering a comprehensive overview of the world's research work in the field of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, arts, and humanities. It is available online only.[5]

John Show Billings, Head of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office, United States Army, which was later changed to the United States NLM started IM. IM was a comprehensive bibliographic index of scientific journal articles related to medical science, in print form, published between 1879 and 2004. NLM began computerizing indexing work in 1960 and called it MEDLARS, a bibliographic database, which later became MEDLINE. Thus, IM became the print presentation of MEDLINE database content. Both print presentation (IM) and online database (MEDLINE) continued until 2004. MEDLINE encompasses 5500 selected publications covering biomedicine and health with the addition of Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) taxonomy to the article data. From December 2004 onwards, PubMed became a free search engine accessing the MEDLINE database. PubMed Central is a free digital repository that archives publically accessible full-text articles.[6] PubMed greatly enhanced online access covering the core clinical journals under MEDLINE. A new version was published containing articles from 1970 to 1997 as the Abridged IM. PubMed is not an indexing agency but instead is a free web site that includes the full-text articles containing bibliographic data from the MEDLINE index and PubMed Central repository. The web search is free. The online database is PubMed.

IM has been the most comprehensive index of medical scientific journal articles. NLM makes some distinction in the PubMed and MEDLINE databases. MEDLINE is that portion of PubMed in which the articles have had MeSH terms added. An article can appear in PubMed but not be “indexed” in MEDLINE. I would like to cite two examples for better clarification. If you look at the journal record for the journal “Annals of Internal Medicine” (, for instance, you will see the phrase “Currently indexed for MEDLINE.” However, if you look at the record for the “Annals of Gastroenterology” ( you will see that it appears in “PubMed: v24, 2011” and PMC (PubMed Central), but is “Not currently indexed for MEDLINE.”[6]

Embase is a database of Experta Medica in the print version, comprising of published biomedical pharmacological literature. It is published by Elsevier and enables the tracking and retrieval of drug information effectively.[5] Indian citation index (ICI) is a new web platform for measuring the performance of Indian research periodically. This online bibliographic database was launched in 2009. Index Copernicus (IC) which was established in 1999 in Poland is an online database of user-contributed information, including profiles of researchers as well as of the contributing institutions, publications, and projects. The database was named after Nicolaus Copernicus and operated by IC International. However, their evaluation system was highly criticized and presently has been removed from the Medical Council of India (MCI) criteria of publication bodies.[12] MCI considers the following as indexing agencies: Scopus, PubMed, MEDLINE, Embase/Excerpta Medica, and IM.[7] Other sources for such data that are freely available online include Google Scholar, Cite Seer, and Elsevier's Scopus.[2]

The first step in a successful application for indexation is an assessment of the journal's strong points and weaknesses. If a journal has received few citations, it does not present a strong case for indexing. If a journal publishes very little original articles, focusing instead on case reports and reviews only, MEDLINE will not entertain their application. If a journal does not present any unique mission or caters to a specialized target audience, its application to Scopus is likely to be diluted.

Indexed journals are considered to be of higher scientific quality as compared to non-indexed journals. The quality of content or articles is the most important and primary criteria. The key points to these include: Editorial standards – The journal should demonstrate that the method of selection of articles (especially, the peer review process) is as per the established ethical and procedural standards as laid down by Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). The editorial board should contain a good mixture of national and international members with at least 60% foreign members on the editorial board. Another important point is timeliness. A journal should not suffer from delays or interruptions in the publication schedule. Other qualitative and quantitative factors considered during the journal evaluation for inclusion in the indexing bodies include basic publishing standards, editorial content, international focus, and citation analysis.

The H-index is an author-level metric that attempts to measure both the productivity and citation impact of the publications of an individual. The index is based on the set of individual's most cited papers and the number of citations that they have received in other publications. H-index has the advantage over other calculations of combining productivity (i.e., number of papers published) and their impact (number of citations) in a single value.[5]

Indexing helps the journal achieve its main purpose of being accessible to a wide group of readers. Journals must increase their visibility, availability, and readership by getting indexed in one or more of the databases. Database research is the first activity researchers undertaken as a part of their study, searching for established, well-known names. These indexed journals are the right choice where one should publish their papers with high credit, especially if they are academicians. It provides them with better points or credit, especially during promotions, and allows their work to be read by larger groups with more citations. Nearly all the “predatory journals” use the term “indexed.” An article or journal that appears in an online database does not automatically mean that it is “indexed.” An indexed journal does not need to be always of better quality than a non-indexed journal. However, an indexed journal has proven (at least to the indexing) body or agency that it has a well-documented process in publishing articles. Indexers evaluate the journal based on the documents submitted or available to them. Renowned professional authors would not want to waste their hard work on journals with zero or little impact factor or in a predatory journal. I am sure that this editorial must have enlightened the readers about indexing as well as steps to be taken before submitting any manuscript to the journal and be alarmed about any trap.

   References Top

Journal Indexing: What it is, and What It's Not. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Jan 27].  Back to cited text no. 1
Citation Index. Available from: [Last accessed on 2016 Jan 27].  Back to cited text no. 2
Dhammi IK, Haq RU. What is indexing. Indian J Orthop 2016;50:115-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Garfield E. Citation indexing for studying science. Nature 1970;227:669-71.  Back to cited text no. 4
MacRae DA. Indexing: Myths and Realities, Editor Newsletter Series I. Georgia, United States: Wolters Kluwer Medknow Publications; 2015.  Back to cited text no. 5
Index Medicus. Available from: [Last acessed on 2016 Feb 12].  Back to cited text no. 6
Medical Council of India. Clarification with Regard to Research Publications in the Matter of Promotion for Teaching Faculty in Medical Colleges/Institutions (Dated Sept 3, 2015 and No. MCI-12 (1)/2015-TEQ/131880) 2015. [Last Cited on 2015 Sep 19]. Available from:  Back to cited text no. 7

Correspondence Address:
Ranjan Agrawal
MD; FIC Path; MIAC, DHA, Professor, Department of Pathology, Rohilkhand Medical College and Hospital, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJPM.IJPM_1265_20

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