Nobody likes rejection. If you’ve spent a lot of time and effort on your latest paper, only to have it turned down, it’s going to hurt. Articles get rejected for all manner of reasons, from easy to avoid errors and oversights, to simply falling outside of the journal’s scope. In this two-part blog post (part two to follow next week) we’ll look at some of the most common reasons for rejection in more detail, before discussing the various options open to you if your article is rejected. So, what are the most likely reasons for rejection?
1.The manuscript fails the technical screening
Before the manuscript gets passed to the Editor-in-Chief or Managing Editor of a journal, the editorial office will undertake some basic checks. The main reasons for rejection of papers at this stage include:
- The paper contains elements that are suspected to be plagiarized
- The paper is under review at another journal (submission to multiple journals at the same time isn’t allowed)
- The manuscript lacks key elements such as a title, list of authors and affiliations, main text, references, or figures and tables
- The quality of the language is not sufficient for review to take place
- Tables and figures are not clear enough to read
- The paper does not conform to the journal’s Author Guidelines
2. The manuscript does not fall within the journal’s Aims and Scope
If the paper won’t be of interest or value to the journal’s audience, it’s unlikely to be accepted. When choosing a journal to submit to, always make sure you read the Aims and Scope so you have an understanding of the type of articles the journal is looking for. For more tips on choosing the right journal, see last week’s blog post: How to Maximize Your Study’s Visibility by Choosing the Right Journal.
3. The research topic isn’t of great enough significance
Again, if the topic covered by the paper isn’t of interest to a journal’s audience, it will likely be rejected. It may be that the paper’s findings are incremental and do not advance the field, or that the manuscript is clearly part of a larger study which has been divided up to make as many articles as possible.
4. The research is over-ambitious
If the authors have been overly ambitious or all-encompassing, results may be difficult to interpret or may even be flawed. In these cases it may be more appropriate to divide the work into a series of smaller research projects.
5. A clear hypothesis hasn’t been established
The question behind the research may be unclear, poorly formulated, or not relevant to the research field. Carrying out an extensive literature review can help guide your hypothesis or research question.
6. The manuscript is incomplete
The paper might contain observations but is not a full study, or it may ignore or overlook other important work in the field.
7. There are flaws in the procedures, presentation or analysis of the data
Major flaws might include a lack of clear control groups or other comparison metrics, non-conformity with recognized procedures or methodology (which makes it difficult to repeat or replicate the work), or the lack of a statistically valid analysis. Watch out for any minor flaws such as the incorrect, inappropriate or unclear labelling of tables and figures.
8. Flaws in the manuscript’s arguments and/or conclusions
Arguments should be logical, structured and valid, and support the conclusions reached by the paper. If the conclusions reached cannot be justified on the basis of the rest of the paper, or they ignore large portions of the literature, the manuscript will be rejected.
9. Language, writing and spelling issues
The language, structure of the paper, and any tables or figures need to be of good enough quality for the paper to be assessed; if this isn’t possible, then the paper will be rejected. It’s always a good idea to ask others to check your paper before you submit it – a second pair of eyes can help pick up any errors you might have missed. If you aren’t confident in your English writing skills, most publishers offer English Language Editing services which you can use before submitting your paper.
Check back next week for advice on what to do when your article is rejected.
Image credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock