Your Academic Paper Was Rejected. Now What?
Your paper was rejected. Now what? As many as 9 out of 10 authors have had their work rejected at some point. Perhaps you’ve decided to re-submit your paper for a re-review or to another journal, appeal the decision, or ask for a new reviewer. Or you need inspiration to improve your paper or find the next ideal journal for re-submission.
According to Siobhan Bowler of Deakin University, academic papers are rejected for several reasons:
- Lack of relevance (paper does not match the journal’s scope)
- Lack of new contributions to the field
- Problems with research, including an inadequate or poorly conducted study, inadequate literature review, methodological issues, problematic sample or statistics, and weak analyses
- Does not meet ethical standards
- Poor language, including grammar, inconsistencies, wordiness, and jargon
- Does not meet journal guidelines
Assuming your paper was not rejected due to problems with research but instead simply needs to be improved, the following steps will help you revise and refresh your article to increase the chances of successful review and acceptance for publishing.
1. Fix any glaring mistakes or factual errors
The integrity of your paper and its research findings are critical. No matter what you do next for submission, you’ll want to correct errors in content identified by reviewers, such as omissions, contradictions, and inconsistencies. This means cross-checking tables and figures against their corresponding in-text references, ensuring citations are accurate, and conveying your findings clearly to avoid misunderstanding.
Even if you decide not to modify the style or language of your paper, your goal as a researcher is to share valuable findings with the broader scientific community so they can replicate or build on your conclusions and implications. This would be difficult without accurate and consistent data and explanations.
2. Use a grammar assistant tool or hire an editor to improve language
Perhaps your writing skills don’t quite match your research skills, or the journal language (such as British or American English) is not your native tongue. In that case, consider hiring an expert with experience editing scientific manuscripts. There are many professional proofreading and editing services from which to choose. Or, at the very least, use a grammar assistant in your writing software, such as the built-in editor in Microsoft Word or the Grammarly cloud-based tool.
The goal is to ensure no errors in spelling, grammar, clarity, or phrasing so your message is conveyed succinctly and impactfully. Despite the importance of your actual research content, journal reviewers advocate for their readers and are looking for an understandable, easy-to-read, well-organized summary of often complex research.
3. Use JouroscopeTM to identify ideal journals for re-submission
Browse or search the Jouroscope journal finder directory to find journals with similar ranking and indexing to your paper and associated keywords or research field. Use the built-in advanced search and filters to narrow down the possible journals for your re-submission, increasing your chances of acceptance during the next round.
For example, if your paper is in the Aerospace Engineering field, just go to Jouroscope and either use the open-ended search on the home page or browse down to the categories and click on Aerospace Engineering under Engineering. You can further refine your search using Advanced Search. You can then review the country, publisher, language, subject areas, and even peer-review type to find a relevant journal for submission.
Bonus: After identifying a new journal for submission, immediately start reviewing the journal’s author and submission guidelines. You may have to restructure your paper and modify the citation and reference style to match, such as APA, Harvard, or the journal’s unique style. This is where citation management software can be helpful for quickly updating your paper to satisfy those guidelines.
4. Ensure the highest ethical standards
Perhaps most importantly to your reputation as a researcher is maintaining high ethical standards while writing and submitting the paper to demonstrate you are a trustworthy author worthy of publication by the journal.
Make sure to credit all authors and allow them to fully participate, review, and revise the manuscript. Acknowledge people, institutions, and their credentials associated with the work, often on the title page but alternatively under the Acknowledgements section. Avoid submitting your article to another journal during the current journal’s editorial process. Obtain permission for any previously published content, such as tables and figures.
Most importantly, be fully transparent throughout the process and act with integrity and professionalism, including when you receive a less-than-encouraging comment from a reviewer. Even if you don’t agree with every comment, you can learn what reviewers are looking for.
Journal article review is a subjective process, You, as the author, make the final determination about how to proceed. Being equipped with the right tools to correct your paper, improve the language, and plan for success during the re-submission process will vastly increase your chances of acceptance during the next round.