After investing a significant amount of time in conducting your research, preparing your manuscript, and then submitting to the journal of your choice, the least ideal outcome is to receive an immediate desk rejection without further review. This blog piece seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the most common reasons for manuscript desk rejections and effective ways to avoid them. It is important to address each point with a critical mindset and thoroughness, so you may better understand how these factors can work in combination with each other to significantly harm or help your chances of journal acceptance.
I: Unsuitability: Aims and Scope
Unsuitability is one of the top reasons for a desk rejection, meaning it is one of the most immediate ways to have your work rejected without review. It can take an editor a mere few minutes to determine if your manuscript is within the scope of the journal or not. Most journal webpages provide a substantial amount of guidance on what they are looking for, so why is this still such a common reason for desk rejections? And how can you ensure your manuscript is within the scope of the journal you are submitting to? If you are asking yourself these questions, there is a chance that you may not be selecting the correct journal for your work. Choosing the correct journal for your completed paper is possibly the most important step in your publishing journey. If the mission and scope of the journal does not align with your manuscript, it will not only be more difficult to convince the journal editors otherwise, and you will ultimately be wasting your valuable time (Elsevier, 2015).To address this issue, you should ideally select your target journals before you begin writing your manuscript. Otherwise, review the aims and scope of your chosen journal and very carefully and closely revise your manuscript as needed. To familiarize yourself with the scope of the chosen journal, examine a few previously published works in past issues of the journal. Furthermore, utilize free services such as eContent Pro’s Journal Recommendation Service, which employs expert journal selectors to research thousands of journals and provides you with a list of 5 recommended journals and the necessary information about each journal.
II: Submission Guidelines and Criteria
Matching the journal’s aims and scope still does not guarantee you have chosen the right journal for submission. You must also align with the journal guidelines. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if your work is groundbreaking and of high novelty, editors will excuse any missing or incorrect information differing from their guidelines and criteria. If the manuscript does not follow all specified guidelines and criteria regarding formatting, length, and so on, it will more than likely be desk rejected (Thrower, 2012).
Following guidelines is crucial to avoid desk rejections in terms of content and formatting. Types of manuscripts—for example, empirical, essay, domain review, instructional innovation, resource review—each have their own traditions and expectations, which may also vary by journal.
“Going outside of these conventions raises concerns about the quality of the writing, often makes manuscripts turgid, and can hide the argument or message”
( Billsberry, 2014 ).
Again, reviewing previously published manuscripts of your chosen journal and considering the types of manuscripts accepted and their guidelines associated with these types of work is of utmost importance. It is advisable to hire a professional copy editor to ensure all guidelines are followed. You can always consider the support of professional editorial service providers such as eContent Pro's copy editors, who provide expert-level knowledge in adhering to journal guidelines and different formatting styles, free as part of the Copy Editing & Proofreading service.
III: Poor Writing
The clarity of the research and messages within your manuscript can be detrimentally tainted by poor writing and grammatical and spelling errors. If the content of a manuscript is unclear due to these issues, then the manuscript can become a victim of an immediate desk rejection without further consideration, as the peer reviewers will not be able to assess the research to the extent necessary. Make sure your manuscript benefits from comprehensive English language copy editing, offered by many professional editorial services such as eContent Pro, where you can benefit from the expertise of a skilled professional English Language Copy Editor in enhancing your manuscript by:
- Improving grammar, spelling, punctuation, terminology, and much more
- Reviewing word usage, sentence organization and readability, and overall clarity of language.
- Eliminating wordiness and inappropriate jargon.
- Ensuring consistency in transitions, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization.
- Formatting by editing adhering to any publisher or journal guidelines required.
- Providing an official certificate of completion presented with a satisfaction guarantee.
- And much more.
IV: Contribution to the Body of Knowledge
As one of the pillars of manuscript acceptance, the contribution of your work to the area of research, also regarded as its high novelty and impact, is pivotal to its overall success. The best way to highlight your work’s novelty is to compare it with established work that has been conducted in the past. This is a practice that should be part of the structure of your research, but properly communicating these contributions is just as significant. In best practice, your findings must be of high novelty and your manuscript must be able to convey this seamlessly, especially within the abstract, introduction, conclusion, and cover letter. To examine this issue related to your manuscript, it is always extremely beneficial to have your manuscript peer reviewed by a few expert researchers in your area of research. Alternatively, you can work with a professional editorial service provider such as eContent Pro’s Scholarly and Scientific Copy Editing where your work will be assigned to two highly qualified researchers with extensive knowledge of your research area to review on a blind review basis. These expert researchers will provide you with:
- Two independent pre-publication (peer-review) content reviews of your manuscript.
- Review of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and terminology.
- Improvements to your organizational structure, major weaknesses, and much more.
- Thorough constructive feedback and suggestions.
- A certificate of completion presented with a satisfaction guarantee.
- Providing an official certificate of completion presented with a satisfaction guarantee.
- And much more.
V: Defined Research Methodology
Using the correct methodology in conducting research is always a critical aspect of any research. In many cases, a manuscript can be desk rejected due to the questionable research methodology utilized in support of the research and all data analysis related to it. In many cases it is not only the inaccuracy of the research methodology and structures used but also the way they are applied. Often the author of the manuscript can easily fail to notice the obvious shortcomings affecting the explanation of the methodology in the manuscript. One easy way to address this major issue is to have experienced peers or colleagues or other researchers review and examine your work. Alternatively you can benefit from the Scholarly and Scientific Copy Editing of editorial service providers such as eContent Pro where at least two experienced researchers will review your research methodology and provide you their feedback and expert suggestions to improve your manuscript before you submit your work to the journal of your choice.
VI: Data Analysis Presentation
Presentation of figures, tables, and charts within your manuscript should never be neglected as often they are some of the first pieces of information a journal editor will view. Depending on the broadness of the chosen journal’s reach, the editors reviewing your manuscript may not be experts in the type of work you have conducted and instead look to your figures, tables, and charts to assess the quality of work (Clemens, 2022).
Poorly structured and presented information can result in a swift rejection. If the editor is unable to interpret these visual components, he/she might reach incorrect conclusions and decide that the manuscript should not be submitted to the journal reviewers for the blind review process. Other issues related to figures, tables, charts, etc. can be connected to the location and format of these visual instruments in your manuscript, the use of color, incorrect font sizes, and incorrect alignment and spacing after paragraphs. These may not always seem to be the most pertinent issues, but manuscripts are rejected all the time for these mistakes. These mistakes cause manuscripts to “look ‘wrong’ from the moment they are opened, thereby hampering your chances of successfully navigating the review process” ( Billsberry, 2014 ). You can always consider utilizing eContent Pro , which provides figure, table, chart and equation conversion services by graphic designers with specific expertise in editorial work and at a fraction of the cost of other conventional design firms.
VII: Ethical Issues
Some of the most common ethical issues to cause immediate rejection are plagiarism and duplicate submissions. The tricky part about plagiarism is that it can be intentionally and unintentionally committed. For most academic journals, greater than 20% plagiarism is an immediate rejection. It should be noted that this also applies to plagiarizing your own work. If you intended to take previous work of yours to reorganize and submit, this will likely result in the same outcome and should be avoided (Scholar Hangout, 2021). Other ethical issues that can cause immediate desk rejections include research ethics ignored, such as consent from patients or approval from an ethics committee for animal research and lack of up-to-date references or references containing a high proportion of self-citations (Scholar Hangout, 2021). Again, a professional, experienced copy editor can assist you in addressing these issues prior to submitting your work to the journal of your choice.
In summary, investing in professional assistance that you can obtain from experts of reputable editorial service providers such as eContent Pro will enhance and strengthen the overall quality of your manuscript and increase your chance of getting your work accepted in the shortest period of time! Using the professional assistance of an editorial service provider can be viewed similarly to using an experienced attorney of a reputable law firm in preparing any legal case that you might be dealing with before it is presented to a judge for trial.
Billsberry, J. (2014). Desk-rejects: 10 top tips to avoid the cull. Sage. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1052562913517209
Clemens, A. (2022). 5 likely reasons why your paper was (desk-)rejected. Anna Clemens. https://www.annaclemens.com/blog/reasons-paper-desk-rejected-without-peer-review
Elsevier. (2015, Apr. 10). 5 ways you can ensure your manuscript avoids the desk reject pile. Elsevier. https://www.elsevier.com/connect/authors-update/5-ways-you-can-ensure-your-manuscript-avoids-the-desk-reject-pile
Scholar Hangout. (2021, Nov. 8). Reason for facing desk rejection. Scholar Hangout. https://www.manuscriptedit.com/scholar-hangout/reasons-facing-desk-rejection/
Thrower, P. (2012, Sept. 12). Eight reasons I rejected your article. Elsevier. https://www.elsevier.com/connect/8-reasons-i-rejected-your-article