The Pleasures and Pains of Conditional Acceptance | Tips on How to Get Your Research Published
Every scholar who submits his or her writing for publication in an academic or scientific journal does so in the hope that it will be accepted as is or with very few minor changes. As an ideal scenario, however, this sort of immediate acceptance does not happen as frequently as scholars might like. Rejection, especially the formulaic single-sentence kind that provides no feedback to assist the author with effective corrections and improvements, is far more common. However, there is a middle ground to be found in what is called conditional acceptance, which can inflict upon the professional author a combination of pleasure and pain.
Sometimes conditional acceptance is obvious because the editor concerned makes it absolutely clear that if the author revises the paper as requested, it will definitely be accepted for publication, but in many cases the editor’s intentions are not quite so obvious. Perhaps the editor has suggested that the paper cannot be published until the changes are made, but has not confirmed that successful publication in the journal will definitely be the result if the revisions are completed in a satisfactory manner. If this is the kind of ambiguous message you have received from a journal editor and you are planning to revise your work in accordance with the feedback, you may want to write to the editor to confirm that your paper will indeed be published or at the very least seriously reconsidered for publication if you complete the revisions requested and resubmit the manuscript.
Whether or not you need to confirm conditional acceptance of your paper, keep in mind that the very fact that you received detailed commentary and criticism from the editor and perhaps the peer reviewers who assessed your writing for the journal is an extremely positive thing. Scholarly proofreaders tend to be incredibly busy people and they neither bother to send writing on to peer reviewers (also incredibly busy people) nor waste their time providing detailed feedback unless they genuinely believe that writing potentially suitable for publication. This fact should come as an encouraging and pleasurable sensation no matter how difficult and painful the requested revisions may be to imagine and implement.
Working out exactly what the editor requires, reviewing your work with an eye to revising in ways that meet the journal’s needs while also maintaining the integrity of your research and then successfully making the necessary changes within any time limits set by the editor and without exceeding the journal’s word limits for your paper are the more painful parts of the process. If you read both the feedback you have received and your paper itself with as objective and open a mind as you can manage, your efforts will produce the best results. Remember to reach out for help as well: the assistance of knowledgeable colleagues or mentors and the services of a professional proofreader or editor may prove invaluable.
It is vital that all communication with the editor concerned be respectful and professional in tone and clear and specific in content. If you are unable to make every change that he or she requested, this should be explained in your correspondence, and you should provide reasons for your decisions – sound academic reasons, that is, such as ‘removing this paragraph would undermine the progression of my argument,’ rather than questionable personal ones such as ‘I simply do not have the time to reformat all my tables.’ If you are confirming in your letter that you will be making or have made most of the revisions requested by the editor, the few things that you are unable to change for valid reasons will communicate not inflexibility, but your intention to maintain the integrity of your scholarship as you accommodate the needs of the journal and eagerly work with the editor to produce the best paper possible.
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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.