Deciding on a Plan of Action for a Rejected Manuscript

Deciding on a Plan of Action for a Rejected Manuscript
In order to decide how to proceed when facing the revision of a manuscript rejected by the acquisitions editor of a scholarly journal or press, you will first need to understand what the editor has identified as the main problems. This may not be as straightforward as expected and will likely require careful critical reading of any feedback provided by the editor or by a peer reviewer as well as an honest assessment of whether your work conforms to the publisher guidelines. Once you have decided exactly what is preventing the publication of your work, you will be able to make decisions about how to resolve the problems in order to earn reconsideration.

Among the most common reasons for manuscript rejection is failure to observe the publisher guidelines accurately and consistently. If the editor has offered criticism in this regard, you should definitely review the instructions and go through your paper with a fine-tooth comb to ensure your compliance with every detail when you resubmit your work. Do keep in mind that inappropriate formatting that neglects publisher guidelines can also be the reason behind rejections that are unexplained, so it is always wise to check the author instructions when you are in doubt. In order to format your work effectively, you will need to understand exactly what the relevant guidelines request and then dedicate considerable time and precision to details. If you are not able to solve the problems, you may need to ask the editor for clarification or seek assistance from a mentor, colleague or professional proofreader to get every detail right before you resubmit your work.
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Another common reason for rejection is unclear or incorrect language that compromises the accurate and professional communication of advanced research. Editors will usually inform you briefly or in detail if this is the case, but I have seen manuscripts rejected without explanation that were almost certainly rejected due to problems with the writing itself. The simple solution here is to identify and fix the problems regardless of where you intend to submit your manuscript next, and yet how difficult that solution can prove! Writing a scholarly standard of formal English to report the complexities of advanced research is challenging, so if you do not understand the problems highlighted by the editor or are not able to repair your prose, assistance is definitely in order. A mentor or colleague who has successfully published scholarship in the English language may be able to help, and a professional proofreader or editor who is a native speaker of the language and specialises in your discipline will usually prove well worth the fee.

Remember as you plan your route through revision and resubmission that a manuscript can simply be a poor fit for a particular journal or press. If you have received an unexplained rejection and can find no valid reason for the rejection such as poor language or a neglect of the guidelines, it may be wise to consider other options. There are many academic and scientific journals and presses out there publishing a vast amount of material every day, and a single rejection is certainly no reason for hesitating in your publication plans. Indeed, perhaps the most important advice as you cope with rejection is to persist in moving forward and pursuing your goals.

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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.

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