What to do if a paper gets rejected?


Paper Rejection: Introduction

Paper rejection doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Paper rejection is a part and parcel of publication. It doesn’t reflect that the quality of research is poor. A well-written and drafted paper takes a lot of hard work and countless hours of time to develop. However, evidence suggests that 21% of paper gets rejected even before the review stage by the editor and 40% of paper faces rejection after peer review. So, what to do next? The below paragraphs provide suggestions on how to deal with rejection.

Analyzing why the paper got rejected

As mentioned before paper rejection can be faced in two stages of the publication process: 1. Quality Check or Pre-Review Stage; 2. Peer Review Stage

  1. Pre-Review Stage or Quality Check Stage

Mostly the paper gets rejected before the review process due to falling outside the scope of the journal. The Journal Editor not only checks if the paper is relevant for the audience of the journal, but it also considers if the content and findings are novel, but the plagiarism content is also below the accepted percentage, and overall quality (writing style, mode of communication, etc). These papers are returned to the author with comments about the reason behind the rejection.

  1. Peer Review Stage

Papers that pass the initial check stage are sent for peer review. The overall strength and weaknesses of the paper are analyzed at this stage. The external reviewers are invited to analyze the submitted paper based on certain criteria:

  1. Formatting Errors: Word length, number of tables and figures, the format of tables and figures, reference formatting, etc.
  2. Writing Issues: Style of writing, language, the voice used (Active or Passive), grammatical errors, proofreading errors.
  3. Author identity and Declarations: Incomplete author information, ethical clearance issues, funding agency, grant number, conflict of interest, etc.
  4. The novelty of work and Quality: Failing to meet the standards of the journal, insignificant results, narrow study, unsuitable papers, incomprehensible writing, unclear hypothesis, etc.

Options to consider for developing a better draft

At first, one needs to collect himself or herself and understand the reasons for rejection. Once, the reasons and analyzed, the paper needs to be corrected accordingly.

  1. Follow the author guidelines

Most papers get rejected as they fail to follow the author guidelines in terms of word length, reference style, number of tables and figures, etc. Follow the guidelines while formatting your paper and attach a cover letter (must) and mention the reason if any of the given instruction is not followed. Always limit the number of tables and figures and remove additional information to concise the data.

  1. Match a suitable journal

This is the best option to consider if the paper gets rejected as it fails to be considered under the scope of the journal. Always read the Aim and Scope section or About the Journal section before submitting to a journal. Make the adjustment in the cover letter and after confirming the scope of the journal submit the manuscript to the journal.

  1. Resubmitting to the same journal

This option is considered when the Journal Editor has indicated that the paper can be accepted if the revisions are made. Read the rejection letter carefully and make note of all the points of rejection. Complete the missing methodology, revise the results, and perform additional analyses (if possible). Prepare a cover letter or additional comments letter and explain all the corrections that have been made (point to point) and submit it with the paper.

  1. Submit to a new journal

When a paper cannot go through the first-choice journal, a new journal must be considered. The above-mentioned three options must be considered to develop the paper for submitting to a new journal. The scope must be considered and all the corrections and revisions must be made. Carefully consider the reviewers’ comments, improve the writing, and data presentation (hypothesis and results). Adjust the author information in the cover letter, and format the references and consider other journal-specific details before resubmission.


Rejections are part and parcel of research publications. It is advisable to read the author guidelines carefully and prepare the paper accordingly. It is always recommended to ask others to check your paper before you submit it. The others might detect some errors you might have missed.

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