At Cell, Nature and Science, out of every 100 submissions received, merely three make it through the editor’s review and then peer review. In other words, rejection rates in these journals are as high as 97 percent!
Even at journals where screening is comparatively relaxed, acceptance rates rarely exceed 40 percent.
Rejection is common in academic publishing. Nonetheless, it is demotivating. After years of research and months of writing and formatting a perfectly crafted research paper, nobody wants to see their research go unpublished.
In this post, we’ve listed a few common reasons that lead to the rejection of papers. If your research paper has been rejected, ensure that you are not making any of these mistakes when submitting it to the next journal. If this is your first submission, run it by these 11 points to ensure that your chances of rejection are minimized.
These reasons why research papers are rejected can be broadly divided into editorial and technical.
Editorial reasons for research paper rejection
At most peer-reviewed journals, the editorial review is the first part of the submission screening process where the editorial team reviews submissions before it is passed to the editor-in-chief or managing editor of the journal. They may reject your paper if:
1. Manuscript does not fall within the journal’s aim and scope
Each journal has a well-defined aim and scope, details of which are easily available on their website. Generally, early-researchers overlook this part and send their manuscripts to journals without giving much thought to whether their research adds value to the publication and its readers.
So, it’s advisable to learn about the aim and scope of the journal you want to submit your article to. In fact, a better approach is to write a list of journals starting with the one that is highly relevant to the research you want to publish. Read more about how to find the best-fit journal.
2. Paper is under review at another journal
Journals don’t entertain a paper that is under consideration at another journal. Most journals clearly mention in their submission guidelines that they won’t accept a paper if it’s under consideration elsewhere.
3. Writing is incomprehensible
This can occur because of extensive use of jargon or poor English.
Journals want manuscripts to be written in the simplest way possible, thus ensuring that they are easy to understand. Other reasons such as bad grammar, spelling issues, and missing important text elements such as affiliations, list of authors, tables and figures often lead publishers to reject papers without giving much thought. If you struggle to write in English, there are multiple tools that you can use to make your research writing better.
4. Doesn’t conform to the writing style of the journal
Each journal has its own set of writing guidelines which includes referencing style, font, font size, margin, space, and other such details. Not following the writing standard set by a journal is often the most common reason for the rejection of papers among early-career researchers. So make sure that you go through the guidelines of the journal you want to submit the article to. Typeset can help you on this front with its auto-formatting feature that formats research papers to any journal’s guidelines in seconds.
Technical reasons for research paper rejection
Oftentimes, technical reasons are associated with the way research has been carried out and, unlike editorial reasons, can take time to rectify or require the researcher to redo their research work from scratch.
These are some of the common technical reasons for which papers are rejected:
5. Research doesn’t add value to the journal
Sometimes the findings of a research aren’t appealing to the journals, especially if those findings do not really contribute to any advancement in their field. If this is the case, it’s likely that the paper would be rejected.
6. Unclear hypothesis
Hypothesis is the statement made by a researcher based on research done in the past. Then, based on her work, the hypothesis is proven right or wrong. If a paper fails to make a clear hypothesis or works on a hypothesis that has already been explored and established, journals will likely reject the paper.
7. Lack of supporting evidence
The data collected during the research is not enough to arrive at the result as proposed in the paper. This can happen if sample size is small or the control is not well-defined. If the obtained data doesn’t support the hypothesis of a paper, rejection is inevitable.
8. Poor Analysis
Statistical analysis of the obtained results is the proverbial last leg when it comes to conducting research. However, choosing an appropriate statistical technique to analyze the results of the research can be difficult. Wrong analysis and using an inappropriate technique make the obtained results questionable.
9. Wrong research methodology
Using an older research methodology, while there exist newer methods that give more accurate results will lead to rejection. This most likely conclusion drawn will be that the obtained results are flawed, as there are better methods to conduct the research.
10. Inconclusive result
If the result of a paper is inconclusive or doesn’t answer the question posed in the hypothesis, the paper is more likely to get rejected for this than on any other grounds.
11. Violation of research ethics
Taking written consent of the participants (if any) in the research, a declaration that research has been carried out solely by an individual and it is not plagiarized and other similar ethics need to be complied with. If a researcher fails to comply with any of these, her paper is likely to be rejected on the grounds of violation of research ethics.
For researchers, getting their research accepted in the first attempt is rare, and it’s even more difficult for first-timers. However, knowledge of the reasons that lead publishers to reject papers can dramatically improve your odds of getting published. Good luck!