After months of hard work, late nights, and hours bent over the keyboard writing and revising, you finally submit your manuscript to a scholarly journal. Whether the study represents the painstaking efforts of an international team of dozens of researchers or just the work of a single author, the buildup to this moment is both satisfying and exhausting. But the wait for the editor’s decision can make the process tedious and frustrating. Maybe the editor accepts the manuscript for review, but then the second, longer waiting game begins. Months can elapse before the reviews are returned. What will reviewer one think? What about reviewer two? And of course, everyone hopes there is no reviewer three—that individual is always bad news.
If you are lucky, a paper might be conditionally accepted by the end of this first review process, but more often than not, the story ends in disappointment. This does not necessarily negatively reflect on the quality of the research but is simply the brutal reality of academic publishing.
The Competitive World of Journal Submission
While the internet has enabled an explosion of hyper-specialized journals and innovations such as open access, academic publishing models have remained relatively static and demoralizing. Submissions to top tier journals have skyrocketed, intensifying competition for both publication as well as the time of busy editors and reviewers. Creative solutions to expedite the review process are suggested all the time, including everything from divorcing peer review from academic publishers to formally acknowledging the efforts of peer reviewers. But until these imaginative remedies are tested and implemented, rejection is the norm. And when your manuscript is rejected, you must simply submit to your second, third, fourth, or even fifth choice journal.
Everyone wants their work published in the best journals possible, but it is just as important to publish quickly in order to move on to the next project and continue research. After all, each publication may form the foundation for progressively more prestigious publications, and a continued focus on rewriting and revisions precludes actual research. This delicate balancing act is driven in equal parts by the publish-or-perish culture and the natural drive of productive individuals to finish the tasks they begin.
Tips for Efficient Publication
Target a journal that strikes a balance between impact factor and appropriate scope.
If your latest results demand a fundamental reevaluation of your field, then you should absolutely shoot for a top journal with a stratospheric impact factor. If your work is destined to become a widely cited example, then you may want to aim just as high. However, for less earth shattering work, you may want to consider niche journals with a lower impact factor ranking. If landing a new position or securing tenure are in your near-term plans, then perhaps you should prioritize submission to journals that offer more immediate response times. (Ironically, many journals now tout their rapid decision times.)
Be aware that impact factor and rejection rate do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.
While many journals pride themselves on high rejection rates as a means of boosting their Science Citation Index impact factors or similar metrics, be aware that rejection rates and impact factors might be unlinked. Pascal Rocha da Silva at Frontiers Blog found no correlation between rejection rate and impact factor using data from 570 randomly selected journals across the sciences. (And in a follow-up analysis, no relationships were observed within broad research areas such as the life sciences and social sciences.) Accordingly, your best bet for publishing quickly while reaching a big audience may be submission to high impact journals with relatively low rejection rates.
Prepare yourself for multiple journal submissions.
When preparing a publication, it is obviously best to prepare and format your article to suit a specific target journal. However, you should also consider your second and third choice journals. Specialized tools like FindMyJournal and Edanz Journal Selector can help you identify other appropriate journals. Furthermore, one can always find inspiration with more generalized tools like Web of Science and Google Scholar as well as more ancient techniques such as looking through journals mentioned in your reference section or speaking to colleagues in the field.
If you use citation management software like EndNote, it takes only a couple clicks to reformat your references, but it is much harder to restructure your introduction or figures. Accordingly, you may want to consider ranking your top target journals based on similarity of requirements or subject matter. Many journals are also able to redirect submitted manuscripts to sister journals, which makes submission to these publications especially appealing. The less you need to rework a manuscript after rejection, the quicker you can get that eventual paper back into peer review.
Reach out to the editor.
Let’s be honest, sometimes it is not just what you know, but who you know. Editors can’t bend the rules about what gets published, but they sure can let you know what is likely to get published and what isn’t. When you are finishing up a manuscript, it never hurts to get in touch with colleagues who happen to be journal editors. If nothing else, they may indicate that a submission would be a waste of your time. Similarly, you should strongly consider reaching out to journals that offer presubmission inquiries. This increasingly common feature of high-impact science journals permits busy researchers to promptly determine if their manuscript is appropriate for review. In other words, presubmission inquiries give all researchers the same convenience and courtesy that was once informally extended to colleagues and associates of established journal editors.
Choosing a Professional Editing and Formatting Service
In brief, it is important to consider how you will react to rejection: have a plan, stick to it, and don’t become concerned if your first choice journal declines to publish your article. When you work with a reliable academic editing and formatting company such as Academic Language Experts, you have a lot less to worry about. With our advanced editing services, you can be confident that the language and formatting of your manuscript will meet any journal requirements. All you have to do is make sure your research is sound, and our expert editors will take care of the rest. It is important to keep in mind that a rejected manuscript is not a dead end, but rather temporary setback on the way to publication. By choosing the right journals ahead of time you can minimize the number of rejections you receive and progress with your next, innovative research project.