Dealing with Journal Rejection – It is Not Always Hopeless as It Seems
There are few more devastating moments in an academic or scientific career than one in which you learn that the journal paper you worked so hard to prepare for a scholarly publisher has been rejected. You conducted your research in sound and innovative ways; your results were revealing, perhaps even surprising; your book or article was as carefully written as you could make it, and you followed the publisher’s guidelines with precision and consistency as you formatted your writing and added references; you even included a brief covering letter with your submission to explain the most important aspects of your work and suggest how perfectly it would fit into the publisher’s range and specialisation; and then you waited weeks or even months for a response. Given your efforts and patience, it is little wonder if the disappointment of discovering that your journal paper was not considered publishable seems overwhelming.
For new authors who have not yet had their writing published or for those who have suffered more than a few rejections, the situation may even seem an impossible one to resolve in a positive way. This is simply not the case, however, and there is always some way to make good use of a rejected journal paper. The first thing to consider is whether it would be worthwhile to continue your attempt to have the work published by the same press or journal. If the acquisitions editor has sent you any sort of specific commentary regarding what was considered problematic in your writing, this is an excellent option. You can reply to the editor, thanking him or her for the helpful criticism, explaining that you understand the nature of the problems and noting that you have already started the necessary revisions. Be sure to ask if the journal or press will reconsider your journal paper for publication once the changes have been made.
If the response to your query is positive, you will need to do your very best to make all the changes you have promised in ways that will resolve the problems highlighted by the editor. If the changes are simply a matter of reformatting to meet the publisher’s guidelines, you will need to ensure that you follow the instructions more carefully and accurately than you originally did. If language, grammar, spelling and writing style are problematic, you will need to put a great deal of effort into making all the corrections and adjustments necessary to produce prose that is clear, professional and of a high scholarly standard. In both cases it is essential that the same type of problems do not crop up in your revised submission – that would result in a second and final rejection – so if you are not able or willing to fix the problems, do engage the services of someone who is. An academic or scientific proofreader or editor who specialises in your subject area will be able to help you perfect your formatting, references and language, and a colleague or mentor who has successfully published his or her own writing will be able to tell you whether you are achieving an acceptable approach and style for your discipline.
If the editor or a peer reviewer has suggested that aspects of your research or your analysis are problematic, your decisions might prove more difficult. It may be that you will be able to adjust your discussion or even conduct some of your research again, but this is only advisable if you think the changes necessary to make your work what it should be. If not and especially if the changes would compromise what you intend in your research, moving on to a different journal or publisher is the best idea. What one editor rejects another may accept with enthusiasm, and any comments you received from the first editor may prove helpful as you tailor your journal paper and covering letter to suit the second.
On the other hand, you may decide to disseminate the research in your rejected article in a different way. Perhaps your work could be presented in an academic or scientific blog or on your university’s website. Alternatively, a short paper could become part of a monograph, and a book-length journal paper could be broken up into shorter articles. The important thing is to remember that you have options, including the option to set the document aside for a while as you learn from the experience and decide how to proceed.
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Our scientific editing services for the authors of a wide variety of scientific journal papers are especially popular, but we also offer manuscript editing services and have the experience and expertise to proofread and edit manuscripts in all scholarly disciplines, as well as beyond them. We have team members who specialise in medical editing services, and some of our experts dedicate their time exclusively to PhD proofreading and master’s proofreading, offering research students the opportunity to improve their use of formatting and language through the most exacting PhD thesis editing and dissertation proofreading practices. Whether you are preparing a conference paper for presentation, polishing a progress report to share with colleagues, or facing the daunting task of editing and perfecting any kind of scholarly document for publication, a qualified member of our professional team can provide invaluable assistance and give you greater confidence in your written work.
If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.