It is never easy accepting that your manuscript was rejected for publication, especially if it does not even make it through the initial review process after all the time and effort put into researching and writing. Although demotivating, you need to understand the different possible reasons this happened. Know that there still remains a chance for your paper to get published… possibly after some adjustments.
The manuscript failed the technical screening
Once submitted, manuscripts’ technical elements are inspected. A desk rejection is decided when the editor or editorial team considers a manuscript unfit for peer review for any of the following reasons:
- The manuscript, or certain elements (e.g., structured v. unstructured abstract) does not follow the journal’s specified format.
- It lacks essential elements or documents (e.g., author affiliations and contact details, declarations, ethics approval).
- It contains elements that are suspected to be plagiarized.
- It is incomprehensible, or the English is insufficient.
- It is inappropriate for the journal’s audience.
- The topic is outside the journal’s aims and scope.
- The figures or tables are not clear.
- The journal is not interested in your paper or did not find your study novel.
Waiting for the first decision can be nerve-racking because it may take a few days to a few months before receiving any news. If your manuscript was rejected at this stage, consider reviewing your manuscript and checking if you followed the journal’s instructions for authors and that your manuscript, along with all the relevant documents, is complete and clear before resubmitting. Likewise, verifying that you are submitting to the right journal is key to getting your manuscript considered for the peer review process.
Remember that journals almost always do not provide the reason behind desk rejection, but some do respond to further inquiries. Try to send them an email and see if they reply. If they do not, then it is time to move on to another journal—no shame in that.
The peer reviewers found multiple issues or fatal flaws in your research
Peer reviewers are tasked with performing comprehensive critical analyses of manuscripts to ensure research quality. They may reject a manuscript because:
- The study design is poor.
- The methodology is considered outdated or defective, or it cannot be replicated.
- The amount of gathered data is insufficient to produce significant results.
- The data is wrongly interpreted.
- The results do not support the conclusions.
- The arguments are illogical, unstructured, or invalid.
- The writing contains too much jargon.
- The research does not contribute new information to the field.
- They observed errors undetected by the editor or editorial team during the technical screening.
They are also tasked with providing authors comments and suggestions on how to improve their manuscripts, regardless of manuscript acceptance. At this stage of the publication process, manuscripts are either rejected with or without possible resubmission. Those given the opportunity to resubmit must address the provided comments and revisions before resubmission. Otherwise, they start the publication process again with another journal.
There are too many new submissions or manuscripts waiting for publication
A journal issue contains a limited number of articles, especially in printed versions. Journal editors must prioritize publishing manuscripts that reflect the journal’s aims and scope and the editorial team’s desired article quality. As a result, researchers worldwide are in fierce competition to publish, raising the rejection rate of certain journals further.
The editorial team is looking for specific topics at a particular time
Depending on the urgency and importance of a specific research area at a particular time, journals would focus on publishing manuscripts related to this theme only. It is good practice to stay updated on current research trends to save you valuable time and effort on research.
Overall, researchers need to continuously hone their skills in developing a manuscript suited for the right journal and take the time to tackle such tedious tasks. Let Journal Lab help you increase your manuscript’s likelihood of publication with our expertly tailored services for your specific research needs. With our Scholar Editing Package, we are with you every step of the publication process—from choosing a suitable journal to submission. Specifically, this package includes Scholar Editing, Journal Selection, Expert Review, Formatting, and Submission. Ready to get published?
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Dogra, S. (2011). Why your manuscript was rejected and how to prevent it? Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 77(2), 123. https://doi.org/10.4103/0378-6323.77449
ManuscriptEdit. (2020a, March 30). Common reasons why a research paper gets rejected by journals. https://www.manuscriptedit.com/scholar-hangout/common-reasons-research-paper-gets-rejected-journals/
ManuscriptEdit. (2020b, April 23). Reasons why research papers are rejected. https://www.manuscriptedit.com/scholar-hangout/reasons-research-papers-rejected/
Morton, P. G. (2020). Why was my manuscript rejected? Journal of Professional Nursing, 36(2), 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.profnurs.2020.02.006
Thrower, P. (2012, September 12). Eight reasons I rejected your article. Elsevier Connect. https://www.elsevier.com/connect/8-reasons-i-rejected-your-article