What is the reviewer looking for?
Possible outcomes of peer review
What to do if your manuscript gets rejected
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Your work is shared with experts in your field of study in order to gain their insight and suggestions. Reviewers will evaluate the originality and thoroughness of your work, and whether it is within scope for the journal you have submitted to. There are many forms of peer review, from traditional models like single-blind and double-blind review to newer models, such as open and transferable review. Learn about our Transparent Peer Review pilot in collaboration with Publons and ScholarOne (part of Clarivate, Web of Science).
The length of the peer review process varies by journal, so check with the editors or the staff of the journal to which you are submitting to for details of the process for that particular journal. Click here to read Wiley’s review confidentiality policy and check the review model for each journal we publish.
Originality, scientific significance, conciseness, precision, and completeness
In general, at first read-through reviewers will be assessing your argument’s construction, the clarity of the language, and content. They will be asking themselves the following questions:
They may also consider the following:
Upon closer readings, the reviewer will be looking for any major issues:
The reviewer will also note minor issues that need to be corrected:
The journal’s editor or editorial board considers the feedback provided by the peer reviewers and uses this information to arrive at a decision. In addition to the comments received from the review, editors also base their decisions on:
The following represent the range of possible outcomes:
The decision outcome will be accompanied by the reviewer reports and some commentary from the editor that explains why the decision has been reached. If the decision involves revision for the author, the specific changes that are required should be clearly stated in the decision letter and review reports. The author can then respond to each point in turn.
The manuscript fails the technical screening: Before manuscripts are sent to the EIC or handling editor, many editorial offices first perform some checks. The main reasons that papers can be rejected at this stage are:
The manuscript does not fall within the Aims and Scope of the journal: The work is not of interest to the readers of the specific journal
The manuscript is incomplete: For example, the article contains observations but is not a full study or it discusses findings in relation to some of the work in the field but ignores other important work
A clear hypothesis or research aim was not established or the question behind the work is not of interest in the field
The goal of the research was over-ambitious, and hence it could not realistically be achieved
There are flaws in the procedures and/or analysis of the data:
The conclusions were exaggerated: The conclusions cannot be justified on the basis of the rest of the paper
The research topic was of little significance:
Bad writing: If the language, structure, or figures are so poor that the merit of the paper can’t be assessed, then the paper will be rejected. It’s a good idea to ask a native English speaker to read the paper before submitting. Wiley Editing Services offers English Language Editing services, which you can use prior to submission if you are not confident in the quality of your English writing skills
It is very common for papers to be rejected. Studies indicate that 21% of papers are rejected without review, and approximately 40% of papers are rejected after peer review.
If your paper has been rejected prior to peer review due to lack of subject fit, then find a new journal to submit your work to and move on.
However, if you receive a rejection after your paper has been reviewed, you will have a rich source of information about possible improvements that you could make. You have the following options:
Make the recommended changes and resubmit to the same journal:
This option could well be your top choice if you are keen to publish in a particular journal and if the editor has indicated that they will accept your paper if revisions are made. If the editor has issued an outright rejection and does not wish to reconsider the paper, you should respect this decision and submit to a different journal.
Make changes and submit to a different journal:
If you decide to try a different journal, you should still carefully consider the comments you received during the first round of review, and work on improving your manuscript before submitting elsewhere. Make sure that you adjust details like the cover letter, referencing and any other journal specific details before submitting to a different journal.
Make no changes and submit to a different journal:
While this option is an easy one, it is not recommended. It’s likely that many of the suggestions made during the original review would lead to an improved paper and by not addressing these points you are wasting a) the effort expended in the first round of review, and b) the opportunity to increase your chances of acceptance at the next journal. Furthermore, there is a chance that your manuscript may be assessed by the same reviewers at a new journal (particularly if you are publishing in a niche field). In this case, their recommendation will not change if you have not addressed the concerns raised in their earlier review. One exception would be if you are submitting to a journal that participates in a transfer program, where authors can agree to have their manuscript and reviews transferred to a new journal for consideration without making changes.
Appeal against the decision:
The journal should have a publicly described policy for appealing against editorial decisions. If you feel that the decision was based on an unfair assessment of your paper, or that there were major errors in the review process, then you are within your rights as an author to appeal. If you wish to appeal a decision, take the time to research that journal’s appeal process and review and address the points raised by the reviewer to prepare a reasoned and logical response.
Throw the manuscript away and never resubmit it:
Rejection can be disheartening, and it may be tempting to decide that it’s not worth the trouble of resubmitting. But, this is not the best outcome for either you or the wider research community. Your data may be highly valuable to someone else, or may help another researcher to avoid generating similar negative results.
You may not be able to control what the reviewers write in their review comments, but you can control the way you react to their comments. It’s useful to remember these points:
Reviewers have, on the whole, given time and effort to constructively criticize your article
Reviewers are volunteers and have given up their own time to evaluate your paper in order to contribute to the research community. Reviewers very rarely receive formal compensation beyond recognition from the editors of the effort they have expended. The author will get the ultimate credit, but reviewers are often key contributors to the shape of the final paper. Although the comments you receive may feel harsh, most reviewers are also authors and therefore will be trying to highlight how the paper could be improved. So, it is important to be grateful for the time that both reviewers and editors have spent evaluating your paper – and to express this gratitude in your response.
The importance of good manners
You should remain polite and thoughtful throughout any and all response to reviewers and editors. You are much more likely to receive a positive response in return and this will help build a constructive relationship with both reviewer and editor in the future.
Don’t take criticism as a personal attack
As stated previously, it is very rare that a paper will be accepted without any form of revisions requested. It is the job of the editor and reviewer to make sure that the published papers are scientifically sound, factual, clear and complete. In order to achieve this, it will be necessary to draw attention to areas of improvement. While this may be difficult for you as an author, the criticism received is not intended to be personal.
Avoid personalizing responses to the reviewer
Sticking to the facts and avoiding personal attacks is imperative. It’s a good idea to wait 24 to 72 hours before responding to a decision letter—then re-read the email. This simple process will remove much of the personal bias that could pollute appeals letters written in rage or disappointment. If you respond in anger, or in an argumentative fashion the editor and reviewers are much less likely to respond favorably.
Remember, even if you think the reviewer is wrong, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are right! It is possible that the reviewer has made a mistake, but it is also possible that the reviewer was not able to understand your point because of a lack of clarity, or omission of crucial detail in your paper.
Evaluating the reviewer comments and planning your response
After you have read the decision letter and the reviewers comments, wait for at least 24 hours, then take a fresh look at the comments provided. This will help to neutralize the initial emotional response you may have and allow you to determine what the reviewers are asking for in a more objective manner.
Spending time assessing the scope of the revisions requested will help you evaluate the extent of effort required and prioritize the work you may need to undertake. It will also help you to provide a comprehensive response in your letter of reply.
Some useful steps to consider:
Want to become a peer reviewer? Learn more about peer review, including how to become a reviewer in our Reviewer Resource Center.