'Eight reasons I rejected your article'
A journal editor reveals the top reasons so many manuscripts don’t make it to the peer review process
By Peter Thrower, PhD Posted on 12 September 2012
When a manuscript is submitted to a high-quality scholarly journal, it goes through intense scrutiny — even before it's seen by the editor-in-chief and selected for peer review. At Elsevier, between 30 percent to 50 percent of articles don't even make it to the peer review process.
As Editor-in-Chief of Carbon, the international journal of the American Carbon Society, Dr. Peter Thrower experiences this situation first-hand. His advice to authors: "By avoiding these pitfalls, you will save reviewers, editors and staff time and frustration, and ensure that your work is judged by its scientific merit, not mistakes."
1. It fails the technical screening.
Before they even go to the editor-in-chief, articles are checked for technical elements. The main reasons they are rejected are:
Peter Thrower, PhD, is Editor-in-Chief of Carbon, the international journal of the American Carbon Society, and Professor Emeritus of Material Sciences and Engineering at Penn State University.
- The article contains elements that are suspected to be plagiarized, or it is currently under review at another journal. (Republishing articles or parts of articles, submitting to one or more journals at the same time or using text or images without permission is not allowed. See our ethical guidelines.)
- The manuscript is not complete; it may be lacking key elements such as the title, authors, affiliations, keywords, main text, references and all tables and figures).
- The English is not sufficient for the peer review process,
- The figures are not complete or are not clear enough to read.
- The article does not conform to the Guide for Authors for the journal it is submitted to.
- References are incomplete or very old.
2. It does not fall within the Aims and Scope.
- For the journal Carbon, the material studied may contain carbon, but is not carbon.
- The study uses a carbon material but the focus is on something different.
- There is no new carbon science.
3. It's incomplete.
- The article contains observations but is not a full study.
- It discusses findings in relation to some of the work in the field but ignores other important work.
4. The procedures and/or analysis of the data is seen to be defective.
- The study lacked clear control groups or other comparison metrics.
- The study did not conform to recognized procedures or methodology that can be repeated.
- The analysis is not statistically valid or does not follow the norms of the field.
5. The conclusions cannot be justified on the basis of the rest of the paper.
- The arguments are illogical, unstructured or invalid.
- The data does not support the conclusions.
- The conclusions ignore large portions of the literature.
6. It's simply a small extension of a different paper, often from the same authors.
- Findings are incremental and do not advance the field.
- The work is clearly part of a larger study, chopped up to make as many articles as possible.
7. It's incomprehensible.
- The language, structure, or figures are so poor that the merit can't be assessed. Have a native English speaker read the paper. Even if you ARE a native English speaker. Need help? We offer language services.
8. It's boring.
- It is not archival, is incremental or of marginal interest to the field (see point 6).
- The question behind the work is not of interest in the field.
- The work is not of interest to the readers of the specific journals.
9 Archived Comments
By Alison Bert, Editor-in-Chief | Posted on 04 Jan 2016
With tips for PhD students, tools for data sharing — and a patient's inspiring view on Parkinson'sBy Paul-André Genest, PhD | Posted on 02 Dec 2015
A publisher relates his transition from academic research to scientific publishingBy Aijaz A. Shaikh | Posted on 25 Jun 2015
A PhD candidate shares the lessons he’s learned preparing his dissertation and publishing research along the wayBy Angel Borja, PhD | Posted on 24 Jun 2014
A seasoned editor gives advice to get your work published in an international journalBy Rodney E. Rohde, PhD | Posted on 23 Oct 2013
What they don’t always tell you before you sign up for graduate school