The focus of this module is the review process that occurs after submission of a journal article with an emphasis on understanding editor feedback.
- List the steps of the review process after submission.
- Explain the possible types of editor feedback and the meaning of each.
- Describe possible courses of action if the article needs revision or is not accepted.
The Steps in the Review Process
It is important to begin by understanding the overall review process that occurs after you submit a journal article for publication. The following short YouTube video, The Peer Review Process, does an excellent job of outlining the steps involved in the review process by using a simple flow chart.
The following list provides additional information regarding the steps of the review process and editor feedback.
Initial Screen - During the initial screening, the editor will review the manuscript to determine whether or not it should go on to the reviewers. Editors typically ask the follow questions:
- Does the manuscript fit the scope and aim of the journal? Will it be of interest to the journal's readers?
- Is the manuscript of acceptable quality in terms of writing, formatting, etc..
- Does the manuscript comply with journal's requirements?
Editors will begin by reading the cover letter carefully. As discussed in previous modules, the cover letter is critical for this reason. The cover letter should highlight the significance of the research and describe why the manuscript is a good fit for the journal. The editor will also likely read the abstract carefully and skim the rest of the manuscript before making a decision. If the editor finds that the manuscript is not a suitable fit or of sufficient quality, it may be rejected outright. This is referred to as "desk rejection". If it clears the initial screening, the manuscript will be sent on for peer review.
Peer Review - During the peer review, the manuscript will be thoroughly evaluated by typically 2-6 reviewers. The peer reviewers are experts in the field that will be able to evaluate and provide feedback on the research, the presentation of the findings in the manuscript, the quality of the writing, and many other aspects. Each reviewer will submit their comments to the editor. Depending on the journal and the discipline, the process may take 30-90 days.
Final Decisions & Feedback - The editor will arrive at a final decision after carefully considering the feedback from the reviewers. Responses may vary a bit from journal to journal, however, following is a list of common responses you may receive from the editor:
- Accept without changes - The journal will accept the manuscript as submitted. This is very rare.
- Accept with minor revisions - The journal has accepted the manuscript but is asking the author to make minor corrections.
- Accept after major revisions - This is conditional acceptance where the journal agrees to publish the paper if the author makes larger changes requested by the reviewers.
- Revise and Re-submit (R & R) - This is a conditional rejection. The journal is essentially stating that with the major revisions they are suggesting, they would consider the paper at a later time in a new round of submissions. This is not a guarantee of publication at a later date, but leaves the door open for the author to make revisions and submit again.
- Rejection - Also called an outright rejection, the journal will not publish the paper and will not reconsider it even with major changes.
The following Slideshare presentation, Getting Your Manuscript Published: What Reviewers and Editors Want, provides further insight into the publication process and the perspectives of reviewers and editors.
- Belcher, W. (2009). Writing your journal article in 12 weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
- Brookfield, S. D. (2011). Addressing feedback from reviewers and editors. In Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Calfee, R.C., & Valencia, R.R. (2001). APA guide to preparing manuscripts for journal publication. Washington, DC: APA
- Day, R. A. (1998). How to write and publish scientific papers.
- Devlin A. (2006) Research Methods. Thompson Wadsworth.
- Spier, R. (2002). The history of the peer-review process.TRENDS in Biotechnology, 20(8), 357-358.