How to Read a Rejection Letter
Give it a once-over. Then read the editors suggestion at the very end of the letter. There are three options: accept, reject, and revise and resubmit. Your article wasnt accepted, but did the editor reject it outright? The vast majority of articles that are eventually published in journals were not accepted outright. Instead, the authors were advised to revise and resubmit. If youve received a letter suggesting that you revise and resubmit your article, do so because your article is still in the running.
How to Revise Your Article
Next, carefully review the editors letter. Editors integrate reviewer feedback into their letters. Note each comment that would entail a change in your article. Dont consider the feasibility of each, just write. Then read the reviewers comments. Most editors will include copies of reviews of your article, written by experts in the field. Some reviews will be harsh. Be prepared. Others offer constructive criticism and helpful suggestions. List all comments and suggestions.
Once you have made a list of all suggestions from reviewers and the editor, read through your article. Read critically. If youre like most authors, you probably havent read your article since submitting it. Thats good. Why? Because it means that you will have distanced yourself from it and can read more objectively. Read critically and note places that need revision.
- Is your argument effective?
- Does your review of the literature support your research question, the grounds for your study, and hypotheses?
- Does the method section offer adequate explanation for replication?
- Are your statistical analyses appropriate to your research question? Can you answer your initial question with the analyses conducted?
- Were your analyses conducted correctly? Are there errors in reporting the results?
- Does your discussion section describe the major findings concisely?
- Does your discussion section explain whether your hypotheses were supported?
- Does your discussion section review the relevant literature and explain how your study fits with the existing literature?
- Does your discussion list shortcomings?
- Does your discussion provide a conclusion and statement of where research should go based on your findings?
Once you have reviewed your article and compiled your own list of changes, compare your list with that of the reviewers and editor. Do you agree with their suggestions? If there are some that you dont agree with, explain why. Now, revise your article, paying attention to your list of suggestions. Proof read your article several times. Put it aside for a day or two and reread it with a critical eye. Ask a colleague or professor to read it.
Once your article is ready to resubmit, compose your letter to the editor. This is a very important part of your resubmission. In your letter, explain each change that you have made, addressing every comment offered by the reviewers and editor. List where you agree with the suggestions, and note what you have done to address them. If you disagreed with a suggestion and made no change, do not simply ignore the suggestion. Instead, mention the reviewer or editors suggestion and why you have not changed your manuscript be respectful, but explain why you feel the change wasnt necessary. Be sure to address every comment. At the end of your letter, thank the editor for the opportunity to resubmit your article and thank the reviewers, noting that their comments were very helpful and improved the manuscript substantially (even if you really dont think so!).
Even if your article is rejected outright, you should use the editor's and reviewers' feedback to improve it before submitting to another journal. Academia is a small world and it's possible that another journal may ask one or more of the same reviewers to read your article. You wouldn't want a reviewer to see that his or her comments ignored.
Rejection is hard -- believe me, I know! But learn how to read editors' letters, use the feedback constructively, and resubmit your research -- and you're be on the path to publication.