What Next After Manuscript Rejection? 5 Options for Researchers

by Elizabeth Oommen George
What Next After Manuscript Rejection? 5 Options for Researchers

Academic publishing can be a daunting process. Authors often have to deal with high manuscript rejection rates that can be as high as 97%, with only one out of every 10 papers being accepted for peer review. In fact, acceptance rates rarely exceed 40% even for journals with less stringent screening processes.1 This can be deeply demotivating for researchers who may have spent months and years writing and perfecting their research manuscripts. While manuscript rejection can be disheartening, it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the road. In this article, we list the most common reasons for manuscript rejection and list the possible options for researchers.

Table of Contents

Top reasons for manuscript rejection

There are various reasons for manuscript rejections, here we’ll take a quick look at the most common issues mentioned by peer reviewers and journal editors when rejecting manuscripts.  

  1. Lack of originality: Journals seek to publish innovative and groundbreaking research. Repetitive or derivative work may not be seen as contributing significantly to the field, which could lead to rejection.
  2. Mismatch with the target journal’s scope: Journals have specific scopes and audiences, so manuscripts that do not match the aims and interests of the readership may be rejected as being irrelevant.
  3. Inappropriate study designs: Flawed study designs can compromise the validity and reliability of the findings, leading to manuscript rejection by journals who prioritize robust methodologies that address research questions effectively.
  4. Poor methodological descriptions: Inadequate methodological descriptions can lead to manuscript rejection as they hinder the reproducibility and transparency of the research. Journals prioritize clear and detailed methods to ensure that the study can be replicated by other researchers.
  5. Lack of sufficient research: Manuscripts may be rejected if the research presented is insufficient to support the conclusions drawn. Journals seek comprehensive studies with robust evidence, and incomplete or underdeveloped research may not meet their standards.
  6. Poor writing quality or inappropriate style/tone: Journals value clear, concise, and professional writing to ensure their readers can access and understand the content. This means manuscripts with excessive language and grammar errors, informal tone, and too much technical jargon are likely to be rejected.
  7. Inconsistent formatting: Journals have specific formatting guidelines, and manuscripts that deviate from these guidelines may face rejection. Inconsistent formatting can distract reviewers and editors from the content, signaling a lack of attention to detail.
  8. Weak study rationale: Manuscripts must establish a strong rationale for the study to demonstrate its significance and relevance. A weak or unclear study rationale can lead to rejection as it may suggest a lack of justification for the research.
  9. Violation of ethical guidelines: Manuscripts that violate ethical guidelines, such as plagiarism, duplicate publication, or falsification of data, are subject to rejection. Journals prioritize integrity and ethical conduct, and any breach of these principles can result in immediate rejection and may have more severe consequences.
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What options do researchers have after manuscript rejection?

When faced with a manuscript rejection, it’s normal to feel dejected but researchers must adopt a practical and constructive approach to remedy the situation. While this may sound like easy advice, it is crucial for researchers to learn the skills of moving ahead since their work still holds value. It’s important to know how to submit better manuscripts. As a first step, you need to assess the reasons for your manuscript rejection and then weigh your options. Here are five options for researchers after manuscript rejection.

Appeal the decision with the journal

If you think your manuscript was rejected unfairly, due to some misunderstanding or error, or if you notice major issues in the peer review process, you also have the option to appeal the decision. Your decision to appeal should be based on logic and not emotion, because you will need to provide clear points in a polite, professional manner when appealing the decision.

Revise and resubmit to the same journal

If your manuscript was rejected because it needed revisions, work on making the edits and ensure that you address each of the concerns highlighted by reviewers in your revised manuscript before resubmitting it to the journal.

Revise and resubmit to a different journal

If your manuscript was rejected because it did not align with the aims and scope of the particular journal, then take time to find another publication that focuses on your primary and related field of study. This will require you to revise the journal not just to align with the feedback, but also to ensure it meets the author and submission guidelines for the new target journal.

Submit the unchanged manuscript to another journal

If you think your manuscript did not deserve to be rejected, you may choose to submit your work to a different journal without making any significant changes. However, experts usually recommend this be avoided because not considering suggestions for improvement from the previous submission can impact your chance of success with the next journal.

Drop journal resubmission and seek other options

If, in rare cases, you think the manuscript is not worth resubmitting to a journal, then you may choose to discard it altogether. However, remember that your work is still valuable and the data you collected might be useful to others, so consider posting your work to sites like figshare where your work will be both accessible and citable.

Remember that manuscript rejection is not the end of the line. There are always options for you as an author to ensure your work is seen and even published, adding to your chosen field of research. If you choose to proceed with resubmissions, check out this step-by-step guide on how to revise and resubmit your rejected manuscript. Best of luck with publishing your work!

References:

  1. Ghost, M. 11 Reasons Why Research Papers Are Rejected. Scispace, October 2021. Available online at https://typeset.io/resources/11-reasons-why-research-papers-are-rejected/

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