Handling Manuscript Rejection by Academic Journals

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This write-up delves into handling manuscript rejection by academic journals. Getting published in reputable academic journals is crucial for researchers looking to advance their careers. Having publications shows that researchers can conduct rigorous studies and contribute novel findings to their field.

The number and quality of publications also factor into hiring, promotion, and university funding decisions. However, the path to publication is often filled with rejection. Most journals only accept a small percentage of submitted manuscripts. Dealing with rejection is an unfortunate reality in academia.

While upsetting, rejection is usually not a reflection on the merits of the research or the researchers themselves. There are many reasons manuscripts get rejected that have nothing to do with quality. For example, the findings may not fit the journal’s target audience well. Or the journal might have just published a similar study.

The peer-review process is also inherently subjective. Facing rejection requires resilience. Researchers must find ways to bounce back from disappointment and continue improving their manuscripts. Building resilience is critical to persisting in academia and achieving publication success. This article discusses strategies and mindsets that can help researchers handle rejection and continue pursuing their academic goals.

The Importance of Publications in Academic Journals

Publications in reputable academic journals validate the quality and rigor of a researcher’s work. – Publications are essential for career advancement, including hiring, promotion, and tenure decisions. The number and impact of publications influence a researcher’s ability to obtain grants and funding.

Furthermore, publications in esteemed academic journals allow researchers to share their findings with the broader scientific community. They are a means of communication that allows for exchanging ideas, fostering collaboration, and inspiring new lines of inquiry.

Publications also contribute to the body of knowledge in a specific field and can influence policy decisions, professional practices, and public understanding of complex issues. The visibility and recognition gained through journal publications can enhance a researcher’s reputation and establish them as a leader in their field.

Therefore, while challenging, striving for publication in reputable journals is significant for any dedicated academic.

The Potential Impact of Manuscript Rejection

Manuscript rejection in journal publishing can have several potential impacts on researchers, both personally and professionally:

  1. Emotional impact: The initial response to manuscript rejection often includes disappointment, frustration, and self-doubt. Researchers invest significant time and effort into their work, and rejection can be emotionally challenging.
  2. Delay in dissemination of findings: Rejection can delay the dissemination of research findings. This can slow down the advancement of knowledge in the field, mainly if the research contains novel or essential findings.
  3. Career progression: As publications are crucial for career advancement in academia, manuscript rejection could slow down career progression, affecting opportunities for promotions, tenure, and grant funding.
  4. Research direction: Repeated rejections might cause some researchers to question their research’s direction or approach. While this introspection can improve research strategies, it may cause unnecessary doubt and confusion.
  5. Time and resource allocation: Dealing with rejections involves considerable time and effort spent revising and resubmitting manuscripts, which could be used for conducting new research or focusing on other academic responsibilities.
  6. Reputation: For early-career researchers, repeated rejections might affect their confidence and how others perceive their capabilities. However, it’s important to note that even successful and well-established researchers face rejection.

Despite these potential impacts, it’s essential to remember that manuscript rejection is a standard part of the academic publishing process. Many successful researchers have faced numerous rejections before achieving publication success. Rejection should be viewed as an opportunity for improvement rather than a measure of a researcher’s worth or ability.

Overview of Academic Journal Manuscript Processing

Manuscript processing in an academic journal involves several stages, from submission to decision. Here is an overview:

Manuscript Submission

The researcher submits the manuscript to a chosen academic journal. The manuscript should adhere to the journal’s guidelines for authors, including format, word count, referencing style, and other specific requirements.

Initial Screening

The editor-in-chief or an associate editor performs an initial screening of the manuscript. This stage determines whether the manuscript fits the journal’s scope and meets its basic standards. The manuscript may be rejected outright without further review if it doesn’t.

Peer Review

The manuscript is sent out for peer review if it passes the initial screening. Typically, two or three experts evaluate the manuscript for its originality, methodology, relevance, and contribution to the field. The reviewers provide detailed comments and recommend acceptance, revision, or rejection of the manuscript. The peer review process can take some time.

Editor Decision

The editor decides based on the peer reviewers’ recommendations and their assessment. This could be acceptance (often subject to minor or major revisions), revision and resubmit, or rejection. The authors are then notified of this decision, along with the reviewers’ comments.


If the manuscript is not rejected, the authors must revise their work based on the feedback provided by the reviewers. They must also provide a detailed response explaining how they addressed each point raised by the reviewers.


Once the revised manuscript is submitted, it may undergo another round of peer review. The same or new reviewers may assess whether the authors have adequately addressed the reviewers’ comments and made necessary improvements.

Final Decision

After all necessary revisions have been made and approved by the reviewers and editor, a final decision is made. The manuscript may be accepted for publication or rejected for unsatisfactory revisions.


Upon acceptance, the manuscript goes through a production process, including copy-editing, typesetting, proofreading, and publication.

It’s important to note that this process can vary between different journals and fields of study. Additionally, the timeline for this process can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on various factors such as the journal’s review process and the number of revisions required.

Common Reasons for Manuscript Rejection in Journal Publishing

What does it mean when a journal rejects your manuscript? Essentially, it signifies that your submission was not accepted for publication by that particular journal. This occurs for various reasons – some related to the quality of the manuscript itself, others more about fit with the journal’s aims and scope. Whatever the cause, rejection is a frequent occurrence in academic publishing and an inevitable part of the process.

There are a few key reasons why manuscripts get rejected:

Poor Fit With the Journal’s Scope

A journal manuscript may be rejected if a manuscript doesn’t align well with the journal’s aims, objectives, or target audience. Researchers should carefully consider their choice of the journal and ensure that their work fits the journal’s scope.

Lack of Originality or Novelty

Journals seek to publish new and innovative research. It may be rejected if a manuscript does not present novel findings, methods, or theories. Similarly, it could be turned down if the study replicates previous work without adding significant value.

Methodological Flaws

Manuscripts can be rejected if they contain errors in the research design, data collection, analysis, or interpretation of results. These errors could potentially affect the validity and reliability of the study’s findings.

Poor Writing Quality

Manuscripts need to be well-written, clear, and concise. Poor grammar, spelling mistakes, convoluted language, or lack of clarity can lead to rejection.

Incomplete or Inadequate Literature Review

A manuscript might be rejected if it does not adequately situate the research within the existing body of knowledge. This could mean failing to reference critical studies or not addressing recent developments in the field.

Lack of Theoretical Contribution

If a manuscript does not significantly contribute to the theoretical understanding of a topic, it may be rejected. This could mean failing to develop or test a theory or not linking the findings to existing theories.

Unconvincing Argument or Unsupported Conclusions

It may be rejected if the manuscript’s argument is weak, unconvincing, or not supported by the presented data. Conclusions should be logically derived from the study’s findings.

Insufficient Data

If the manuscript lacks sufficient data to support its conclusions or if the data is of poor quality, it may be rejected.

Ethical Issues

Any ethical concerns related to the research process, such as lack of informed consent, inappropriate use of sensitive data, or conflicts of interest, can lead to manuscript rejection.

Inadequate Presentation of Results

The manuscript may be rejected if the results are not presented clearly and accurately, with appropriate use of tables, figures, and statistical analysis.

Noncompliant With the Submission Guidelines

Noncompliance with the journal’s submission guidelines can lead to manuscript rejection, often before it undergoes peer review. These guidelines, provided by each journal, stipulate specific requirements related to manuscript format, word count, citation style, data presentation, and more.

Remember, rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that the research is poor quality. It could simply be improving the manuscript or finding a more suitable journal.

Don’t Take It Personally

While rejection stings, it’s essential not to take it personally. The decision does not judge you or your abilities as a researcher. Even experienced academics with solid publication records face rejection frequently. It’s simply an expected part of the highly competitive publishing process. The key is to persist and view it as an opportunity to strengthen your work.

By understanding common reasons behind rejection and realizing it happens to everyone, you can develop resilience and a healthy mindset to move forward productively.

The Importance of Building Resilience

Facing rejection is an inevitable part of the publishing process. As disheartening as it may be to receive the dreaded rejection letter, building resilience in the face of setbacks is critical to persevering and achieving long-term academic success.

Manuscript rejection can emotionally affect researchers who have invested significant time and effort into their work. Without resilience, repeated rejections may lead to frustration, loss of motivation, and even giving up on publishing altogether. Resilience provides the mental strength and flexibility to bounce back from these disappointments and pursue research goals.

Resilient researchers can maintain a big-picture perspective – they understand that rejection is part of the process and do not see it as a reflection of their abilities or the value of their work. This mindset empowers them to learn from the rejection experience, improve their manuscript based on reviewer feedback, and submit it to another suitable journal. Overall, resilience enables researchers to persist despite obstacles, increasing the likelihood of eventually getting their important work published.

Building Resilience and Long-term Academic Success

Studies show that grit and resilience strongly predict long-term success and achievement. In academia, resilient researchers can weather the ups and downs of the publication process to build an impressive portfolio over time.

Rather than getting discouraged by initial rejections, they have the tenacity to keep submitting manuscripts until acceptance. This determination leads to greater productivity, visibility, and career advancement. Building resilience is invaluable for establishing a reputation as a serious scholar and leader in one’s field.

Strategies for Handling Manuscript Rejection By Academic Journals

Getting rejected is never easy, but it’s important not to let it derail your research goals. Here are some practical tips for coping with manuscript rejection:

Allow Yourself to Feel Disappointed, But Don’t Dwell on It

It’s only natural to feel disappointed when an academic journal rejects your hard work. Allow yourself to sit with those emotions for a bit. Maybe commiserate with colleagues over coffee or treat yourself to a nice meal. But don’t let the rejection consume you. Allowing yourself to be in self-pity won’t get your paper published.

Seek Feedback from Editors and Reviewers

Try to get as much actionable feedback as possible from the journal editors and reviewers. Their critiques can provide valuable insights into how to strengthen your manuscript. Many rejections occur due to unfavorable feedback during the peer review process. Go thoroughly through the peer review comments and address the shortcomings of your journal manuscript.

Think of the rejection letter as free consulting advice. Ask the editor if you can resubmit a revised version that addresses the concerns raised.

Revise and Resubmit Your Manuscript

Use the feedback to thoroughly revise your manuscript before submitting it to another journal. Fix weaknesses in the abstract, methodology, data analysis, conclusion, and overall narrative flow. Make sure your claims are strongly supported by evidence. With persistence and openness to critique, rejection can help you produce higher-quality research.

Manuscript rejection stings, but it’s often a temporary setback on the path to publication. Researchers can overcome rejection and achieve academic goals by building resilience and utilizing feedback.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Developing a growth mindset can build resilience when faced with manuscript rejection. A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and learning. It stands in contrast to a fixed mindset, where one’s skills and talents are seen as static.

handling manuscript rejection by academic journals

Researchers with a fixed mindset tend to see rejection as a personal failure, undermining their confidence and desire to keep trying. Researchers can view rejection as an opportunity for improvement by cultivating a growth mindset.

View Rejection as a Chance to Learn

When researchers receive a rejection letter, feeling defeated and giving up can be easy. However, by adopting a growth mindset, they can see it as valuable feedback for strengthening their work. The reviewer’s comments can provide insights into how the paper could be improved or clarified before resubmission. Rather than a judgment of one’s abilities, rejection is reframed as a learning experience. This empowers researchers to try again with a better manuscript.

Persist Through Obstacles

A growth mindset recognizes that meaningful accomplishments often require overcoming hurdles. Manuscript rejection is one such hurdle on the path to publication. Seeing rejection as an expected part of the process makes it easier to persist through multiple rejections. Researchers with a growth mindset are likelier to revise their papers based on feedback and submit them to another suitable journal. They understand that developing groundbreaking research takes time and effort.

Draw Inspiration From Others’ Journeys

It can be encouraging to learn how successful academics once faced rejection, too. Albert Einstein also encountered rejection before his theories were accepted. Highlighting such stories helps normalize rejection as part of a growth journey. With hard work and resilience, manuscript rejection does not have to hinder impactful research.


In closing, it’s clear that building resilience is vital in handling manuscript rejection by academic journals. Throughout this writing, we’ve explored the prevalence of rejection in academic publishing and why it often feels discouraging. However, viewing rejection as an opportunity for growth can help you strengthen your work and continue pursuing your research goals. Here are some final tips:

  • Don’t take rejection personally. It’s not a reflection on you or your abilities.
  • Seek supportive communities, like online groups or mentors, to normalize rejection and build resilience.
  • Learn from critical feedback and use it to improve your manuscript.
  • Persist through multiple rejections – some of the most impactful work faced initial rejection.

The publishing process can be frustrating, but rejection is temporary. With a growth mindset and resilience, you can achieve your research dreams. So keep believing in yourself and your work. Refine, resubmit, and reach out for support when you need it.

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