97 Receiving and Dealing with Decisions

After submitting your article, it can take months or even a year (sometimes longer) before you receive initial feedback from the editor. Calls for contributions to edited volumes (e.g., books) tend to indicate a decision date, so there is usually less anxiety about when the outcome will be known. Many journals also allow authors to track the progress of their articles so you know where it is in the review process. Nonetheless, if this is your first publication, you are likely anxious to know the outcome. This is normal, even for seasoned authors. Remember, be patient –there is no need to contact the editor within the first two or three months. If you feel like you are unable to bear the suspense, talk to a mentor, your supervisor or a professor to get their advice on whether you should contact the journal and how to frame your message.

For double-blind peer review articles, an editor/administrator usually conducts an initial quality check. This could result in a desk rejection (with an explanation why) or it is sent out to referees (peer-reviewers) for evaluation. Some journals give reviewers a deadline within which to submit their reports, but others give a more relaxed timeline. This process can take a while. The reviewers will carefully read the manuscript, consult other literature if needed and write a report, which is sent to the editor. Please note that some journals give general guidance on how to evaluate the manuscript while others have specific scorecards (which are not available to the authors). Based on the recommendations of reviewers, the editor might decide to: (a) accept as is –this is extremely rare; (b) accept with revisions; (c) revise and resubmit (taking into account all the comments from the reviewers); (d) referred to a more suitable journal; (e) rejected. Most published papers have received a ‘revise and resubmit’ at some stage in the peer review process.

Obviously, dealing with acceptance (even with revision) at any stage in the peer-review process is a joyous occasion. You should be extremely proud of your achievement. Only a handful of people ever get to publish in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Please note that an acceptance with revision is not a free pass. You must complete the revisions by the date set. When you make your revisions, you should write a letter to the editor outlining all the suggestions and how you dealt with each (see APA 2021 for guidance). Remember to be courteous, even if you disagree with the suggestions. While it is okay to disagree with suggestions, consult with an experienced professional and do not blast the reviewers. Sometimes it is not worth the battle.

If you receive a desk rejection or a rejection after peer review, you will be gutted. You might feel like a failure, personally attacked and you might question your abilities or purpose. These feelings are normal. Everyone who gets a rejection feels a range of negative emotions. There is no need to attempt to stifle them. Talk about it with someone, express your disappointment, shame, hurt, grief or whatever emotion you are feeling. Do not obsess over the comments. Instead, take some time to refresh yourself and engage in some self-care (hang out with friends, go to a spa, go for long walks, or anything else that helps you through difficult times –see Chapter 4 for more self-care tips). When you feel like you are ready to pick up the paper (this could be months after), read the feedback with the goal to learn what you can from the experience. Discuss them with a trusted person (try to resist the temptation to isolate yourself from constructive feedback). After the discussion, you will need to decide whether you want to revise the manuscript and submit it to another journal or if you want to abandon the project completely. If you submit it to another journal, be sure to make the changes that the reviewers provided. Ensure that you address all the feedback so that the manuscript is truly improved. Whatever decision you make, do not make it in isolation –discuss it with a trusted colleague or mentor. Academia is a lonely and isolating endeavor, so you need to make an effort to find a mentor or a more experienced expert for support.

If you receive a decision to submit the paper to a different journal, then you should. However, take note of any comments, feedback or suggestions that are offered before you submit it to a different journal. More often than not, the comments you receive will help to improve the paper.

As mentioned earlier, the overwhelming majority of accepted papers first received a “revise and resubmit” which might mean “major revision” or “minor revisions”. The comments might offer substantial changes that might require making major changes to the structure or content of your paper. You should attempt to incorporate all the suggestions. If you disagree with any, be sure to discuss your argument with a trusted mentor or expert before you launch an attack on the reviewers or editors. Failure to accept suggestions is likely to go well with editors so be discerning in which comments you want to disagree with. Remember, you should write a letter outlining all the suggestions offered and how you respond to them. You must be courteous in all your responses (even if you believe the comments were silly).


Box 13.5 Resources and tips for publishing in non peer-reviewed sources


Evaluation Reports

Academic Blogs

Additional Resources

Resources and Tips for Publishing in Non Peer-Reviewed Sources


Evaluation Reports

Academic Blogs


APA. (2021). Cover Letters. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/research-publication/cover-letters


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Practicing and Presenting Social Research Copyright © 2022 by Oral Robinson and Alexander Wilson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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