Repository Critique: DOAJ

Scope & Coverage

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a website that hosts almost 19,000 open access journals (DOAJ, 2023). On DOAJ, journal administrators can submit for their journal to be added to the catalogue, which in turn allows users to search for indexed open access journals by keyword, title, ISSN, subject, or publisher. DOAJ does not host the journals but rather acts as a surrogate, providing information about them and web links to the journals. Additionally, the site also allows the user to search for articles, and in this way operates as an A&I database because it provides an abstract, additional information about the publication and a link to the article on the original publisher's site. 

To be included in the database the journals must meet the requirements of open access, be actively publishing scholarly research, and meet several other technical and quality measures (Guide to, n.d.). DOAJ does not limit by delineators such as topic or language and allows journals of any subject to apply to be included in the database. Materials included in the database come from the publishers, who need to individually apply to be included. The sheer quantity and nature of open access journals, often being independently published, leads to a database that includes journals from a diverse collection of publishers, languages, locations, and topics. 

The content of the database includes some unique qualities. For example, DOAJ does not include articles or volumes of the journals that are indexed and therefore acts as a surrogate by linking to the source database. But if the user intended to search a journal on DOAJ to access information that is collected in the individual journal records it could be argued that this collection of data is unique. For example, if a user wanted to search geography journals for author publication fees, publication language, and the copyright the journal follows, this is included in the dataset. This collection of data, organized together, submitted by the publisher, and organized by DOAJ provides users with a simple and unique view of the journal characteristics for users interested in publishing or using content from the journal. 

Vocabulary Control, Truncations, Wildcards, and Filters 

DOAJ includes subject lists, languages, publishers, licenses, countries, keyword tags, and more. In addition to these lists made for DOAJ, the database uses the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system to categorize each journal. This allows users to explore the database using either a standardized system like LCC, through the DOAJ lists, and/or the publisher submitted tags.

Boolean operators can be used to refine the search. Spaces between words will naturally add an AND between each word, so to search for a specific phrase it is encouraged to include quotations; for example, “library science”. In addition, the DOAJ search allows users to include OR to connect multiple similar concepts or broaden results by telling the database that any of the terms used with this boolean operator can be present in the results. Also, the truncation * can be used to search for variations of a word. For example, book* would retrieve records that include book, books, booking, booked, etc. 

Truncation works well during test searches. For example, the search “environment OR nature” returned 505 results while “environ* OR natur*” returned 1484 results. It is evident that including truncation to the root terms allowed DOAJ to broaden the search to include all keywords that begin with “environ” and “natur” as their root.

The search function does not allow for more complex methods of searching. For example, (“canadian studies”) AND (canada OR canadian) OR (america) returned zero results but the same keywords, boolean operators and truncation without the brackets returned three journals. Despite not having the ability to create these complex search terms, DOAJ allows a lot of search customization through filters. Users can limit searches by subjects, languages, licences, publishers, publisher countries, peer review types, dates, and whether a journal has received the DOAJ Seal or if they do not have article processing charges. These allow users with various goals to easily refine their search and can even be used successfully without adding keywords.  

User Interface and User Experience 

The website is designed in a user friendly manner that includes well labelled menus, easy to locate search bar, and easy to read fonts with high contrast colours that make optimizes readability. Additionally, the main page of the website includes data such as the number of languages, countries, journals and articles represented in the database, which immediately shows the user that there is a wealth of information available within the database and open access journals in general.  

“Documentation” is one of the main menu tabs at the top of the website. The documentation found here includes articles to support publisher activities and to support users who are using DOAJ as a resource. Some of the documentation articles include API (application programming interface), widgets, XML, and FAQ. A special feature available through this database is the ability for third parties to freely download article metadata. This could be used to analyze a journal’s metadata in comparison to others in the field, or a variety of other data mining or scholarly pursuits. Another additional feature which makes this database user friendly are the “tips” included on the Journals and Articles search pages. Next to each page title is a “?” icon that includes methods for refining the user's search, such as boolean operators and truncation. Lastly, many records contain a Dimension badge, which provides citation metrics and is helpful for users when considering the scholarly impact of articles. 

The search function returns results quickly and the site updates almost instantly when applying filters. This interface is intuitive to use and the option to search using a fairly simple search bar (ie. similar to Google) makes it approachable for users who are not well-versed in more advanced information retrieval techniques. Further, when tested on a mobile device, the website scales nicely, functions, and looks the same as when accessing the website on a laptop or desktop computer. This interoperability is expected in any modern website or web-based platform. Lastly, accessibility is an important thing to consider when working with websites so that they are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has outlined a list of required standards in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that should be met (AODA, 2020). The online tool, AccessScan, suggests that is AODA compliant and meets the requirements for areas such as titles, clickable elements, readability, appropriate HTML metadata, and others.


Directory of Open Access Journals [DOAJ]. (2023). DOAJ. 

Guide to applying. (n.d.) Directory of Open Access Journals [DOAJ]. 

New AODA Requirement for Ontario Websites. (2020, November 2). Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act [AODA].