introduction: publishing research results as journal articles is the most common format used by researchers for dissemination of advancements in science. to select where to publish, authors must know how to identify the most recognized journals in each field, adopting quality criteria. purpose: to discuss journal selection criteria and bibliometric indicators for evaluation of scientific production and to analyze the status of indexing of brazilian and international journals in health science databases, mainly for journals in surgery and gastroenterology fields. results: the totals of journals indexed in health science databases are presented, highlighting the relative participation of journals in surgery and gastroenterology in each database. conclusion: the decision to publish in a national or international journal should be based on bibliometric indicators and status of indexing in databases, but the objectives of the research must be the main point considered by authors.