Understanding ‘desk-rejection’ — an Editor-in-Chief’s inside look

From the Wiley Job Network

Journal publication is a regular feature of academic life, but it can be deflating when your submission is rejected. Revision requests are common and provide useful opportunities to craft structure and tighten prose, however not all journal editors provide sufficient feedback to allow for successful re-submissions.

Andrew Moore, Editor-in-Chief of BioEassays and the Wiley Researcher spends much of his time reviewing manuscripts for publication. Luckily for us, Moore has given his take on the top three reasons for manuscript rejection. These translate into useful guidelines when planning, researching and writing research papers.

One of the fundamental issues is poor matching between journal and research area. Having an intimate understanding of the relevant publications within your subject area will put you at an advantage. Many thousands of journals exist, in every conceivable branch of research and combination. Judiciously identifying an appropriate publisher is a big part of the challenge. Learning to manage your expectations, especially when submitting to highly competitive, ambitious journals will also help when facing rejection. Manuscripts are assessed for ‘impact’ and ‘reach’ and the bigger players heavily base their selection process on these factors.

Every journal has a specific set of guidelines and stringent editorial policies, to which potential contributors must abide. A lack of understanding the audience and area of specialisation will increase the risk of being turned down. It is good practice to stick rigidly to word counts and avoid extraneous information or falling short of the expected extent. A foundation of good spelling and grammar is a pre-requisite and journal editors will turn-down proofs, which have not been spellchecked or are simply poorly written. English is the international language for academic publishing, and it will pay off to use a professional copy editor and a proof-reader prior to submission.

Moore cites three reasons for journal ‘desk-rejection’. These represent the vast majority of prevalent short-comings among submissions that don’t even make it into review. Broadly speaking, they are as follows:

  • Poor presentation and incomplete information
  • Mismatch between paper and journal
  • Badly written

You can read the reasons behind each ‘failing’ in more detail in Moore’s article, “Desk-rejected” from your chosen journal? What Next, originally published by The Wiley Network (May, 2018).

Having done the hard work of planning, conducting and writing up research, it pays to know what journal editors look for. Put this knowledge into practice and you’ll be amazed by the results.

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Further Reading

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Cool Off, Revise, and Submit Again

How to increase the reach of your published work

A force to be reckoned with – how to collaborate successfully

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