Clay Lord, Copy Editing, Writing and Proofreading Services

Increase Your Chances for Publication:
How to Avoid Rejection during the Editing and Review Process

As detailed in another article on this site, entitled What are the Chances that Our Paper Can Get Published?,

only 29% of papers submitted to an Emerald journal survive a typical three-stage editing and review process. Below are some actions your team of authors can take to minimize your manuscript’s chances of being rejected or withdrawn at the Initial Editor Review Stage, the First Peer Review Stage or the Second Peer Review Stage.

  • Target an appropriate journal, one that regularly publishes papers similar to yours.

If your manuscript is rejected or withdrawn after revisions following the initial Editor review, it is probably for one of two reasons—either the subject of your manuscript is not appropriate for your target journal (in this case it will be rejected outright), or your usage and command of English is not at a high enough level of proficiency (in this case, it will be withdrawn after revisions). The next paragraph will address the former, while the paragraph following that will address the latter.

Not only should your paper contribute something original to the body of literature that is the subject matter of the journal, but the type of paper is also a consideration in whether or not you can get published there. If you have written a literature review for a subtopic in your field with a scope that no previous authors have attempted, your paper passes the originality test. Now, however, consider your target journal. Look through back issues of the journal: If they published multiple straight literature reviews previously, that journal is an appropriate choice, but if not, they might not be likely to make your paper the first of its type that they have ever published.

A critical step in selecting the right journal for your work is to research the publication. Review back issues and read through the Author Guidelines on the journal’s website. Elsewhere on this site is an article containing links to interviews with the editors of Emerald journals, explaining what they are looking for and their review processes. These sources will educate you regarding the journal’s needs and objectives, and help you make an informed decision on where to send your manuscript.

It is important to bear in mind that each wrong choice you make in this regard could cause a delay of several months in getting your work published. On the other hand, just a little due diligence and research on your part prior to submission can accelerate publication of your research dramatically.

  • If your university is located in a non-English speaking country and/or English is a foreign language for you, find some professional editing help.

To save money, some EFL (English as a Foreign Language) authors submit papers for consideration without hiring an experienced professional editor to catch and fix errors in spelling, grammar, syntax, etc. This only makes them appear less scholarly and professional to the journal editors and reviewers, and could greatly increase the likelihood that the paper will be rejected or withdrawn in the early stages of the editing and peer review process.

At the very least, investigate how much time and money would be required to get your manuscript reviewed by a professional editor, and what steps are involved in an editor’s revision process. You can read about my editing process on this site, and obtain a free price quote by submitting your manuscript to me using the Contact form on the Pricing page.

  • Seek out any colleagues who have been published by the journal you are targeting, or in a related journal from the same publisher. Ask them to send you the Word files of their manuscripts at every stage, as well as the reviewers’ feedback.

If you can obtain a complete set of these files from a colleague, it will be a gold mine of information on how to get published by your target journal or publisher. Ideally, you will compile a portfolio consisting of eight or more documents, as listed below:

Stage Documents
Submission 1. Original manuscript as submitted
Initial Editor Review 2. Editor’s Feedback
3. Revised manuscript after initial Editor Review
First Peer Review 4. Peer Reviewers’ Feedback
5. Revised manuscript after First Peer Review
Second Peer Review 6. Additional Peer Reviewer Feedback
7. Revised manuscript after Second Peer Review

Final Approval for Publication

8. Final version of manuscript as published in the journal

Review these files carefully and take notice of the kinds of errors and editorial choices the editor and peer reviewers focused on, so that you can deliver a manuscript that is free from the same mistakes.

  • Resolve not only to respond to every suggestion made, but also to provide clear documentation showing that your revisions have addressed every single point.

You can do this in the cover letter that accompanies your revised manuscript. Make a table consisting of two columns: The left column quotes the editor’s or reviewer’s suggestion, and the right column describes how you addressed it in your revisions. In cases where you disagree with a given suggestion, use the space in the right column to explain clearly and precisely why. Do not omit a suggestion just because you are not in agreement with it; instead, explain your reasons why you chose not to address it.