Manuscript withdrawal: Reasons, consequences, and how to withdraw submitted manuscripts

by Mary Oommen

Researchers and authors sometimes come across situations in their publication journey when they are faced with making the difficult decision to withdraw their manuscript from the journal it was submitted to. While this is not recommended in scientific and academic publishing, there are some exceptional cases when it may be the only choice available to researchers. In this article, we will provide an overview of the common reasons for manuscript withdrawal and its possible consequences. We will also provide a simple guide on how to request a manuscript withdrawal, including a sample letter to withdraw the manuscript.

Table of Contents

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Reasons for manuscript withdrawal

  1. One of the most common reasons for withdrawing a manuscript is when the researcher discovers errors or inaccuracies in their study that they may not have been aware of at the time of submission. In these cases, the author may choose to withdraw the manuscript in order to correct the errors before resubmitting it.
  2. Another reason for researchers withdrawing manuscripts would be due to the unreasonably long time taken by journals to review the paper. If this happens, researchers could choose to withdraw their paper and resubmit it to another journal to avoid further delays in publishing.
  3. Sometimes, researchers withdraw submitted manuscripts when they realize that the journal they have submitted to is possibly a predatory journal. They can choose to withdraw their manuscript and resubmit it to a journal of repute and standing.
  4. In some rare cases, duplicate submissions occur when a paper is accidentally submitted to more than one journal at the same time. This usually happens when there are multiple authors and, in this scenario, the manuscript should ideally be withdrawn from one of the two journals and the editors of both journals must be informed of the error. Here, it is important to remember that researchers must first complete the withdrawal process and formalities with a journal, in accordance to the standard rules of publication ethics, before they submit their manuscript to another journal.
  5. Sometimes, researchers may decide to withdraw their manuscript if they feel they have a better chance of publication in another journal, especially if it is a journal with a higher-impact factor or one with a more specific focus. This type of manuscript withdrawal, however, is considered unethical and is strongly discouraged in academic and scientific publishing.

When withdrawing a manuscript, it is crucial to ensure that it is done at the right time and for ethical reasons alone. Ideally, it is best to withdraw a manuscript as quickly as possible, and before it is sent for peer review, so that reviewers who are already pressed for time do not waste precious hours reviewing the manuscript. Once your manuscript is assigned to peer reviewers, you need to have a very strong and compelling reason for withdrawing your paper.

How to request a manuscript withdrawal

When an author decides to withdraw their manuscript, it is important to follow the journal’s guidelines for manuscript withdrawal. The easiest way to request a manuscript withdrawal would be online, through the regular journal submission portal. In cases where a manuscript withdrawal option is not provided, it is best to contact the journal editor responsible for your manuscript. 

Alternatively, it is a good idea to write to the editor of the journal to seek a withdrawal. When writing a letter to the journal editor, make sure to include the title of the manuscript, the names of the authors, and the reasons for withdrawal. You can refer to the following sample letter to withdraw the manuscript as a template when requesting the editor for a manuscript withdrawal:

Dear [Editor’s name],

I am writing to request the withdrawal of my manuscript entitled [title of manuscript] from consideration for publication in [name of journal]. The manuscript was submitted on [date of submission] and has been assigned the reference number [reference number].

The reason for withdrawal is [reason for withdrawal]. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your time and consideration.


[Your name]

[Contact details]

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Consequences of withdrawing a manuscript

Before you withdraw a manuscript, do keep in mind that the journal editor and reviewers have perhaps already invested significant time and effort in reviewing your manuscript. In fact, most journals do not encourage manuscript withdrawal. Such requests typically attract hefty penalties if researchers are unable to present compelling explanations for their decision. Most journals clearly mention their withdrawal policies on their website and editors can impose sanctions or take serious punitive measures, like a ban on the researcher submitting to the journal.  Therefore, it is important to ensure that the reasons for withdrawal are indisputable and convincing.

Understandably, withdrawing a research manuscript can be a difficult decision for any researcher. However, before requesting a withdrawal, it is important for researchers to carefully consider their options and then communicate the reasons for manuscript withdrawal to the journal in a timely manner. This helps to maintain a professional and ethical relationship with the journal going forward.

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