Adopting a positive attitude toward article rejection

Academics experience more rejection than almost any other profession. Many of your papers and grant applications are likely to be rejected, perhaps more than once, before they are finally accepted or funded. This will especially be the case if you take the advice onboard that we offer in our workshops and training sessions and always try to preferentially submit your research papers to journals that have higher impact factors (IFs). Indeed, rejection happens - all the time. The important question is how can you manage this, and turn it into a positive to advance your career.

1. Work on several projects/papers simultaneously

Write up your research efficiently and quickly, submit and then move onto the next project. Don't sit back and wait for decisions to come to you on the papers you’ve submitted. You must have several papers on the go, several projects in various stages of completion so that you can keep your publication rate ‘ticking over’, as they say.

2. Believe in your research

At the same time, belief in your research – that it is of high quality and deserves to appear in leading journals – is one of the keys to success as an international researcher. Generating positivity and energy around your research and projecting this to others, in both written and spoken form, makes it much easier to present talks confidently at conferences, for example, as well as to write successful editorial responses to comments received in peer review. Our Charlesworth Knowledge training courses can help you learn these skills to advance your career.

3. Write and respond confidently to editors

Don’t be afraid of talking to editors and asking questions about negative decisions if you feel you have been unfairly treated, or that perhaps the reviewers of your paper did not have enough information or understanding to make a fair and informed decision. What’s the worst that can happen? Your paper has already been rejected, after all. A quick, polite and constructive email to an editor might help a lot. For example...

Dear editor,

We feel that reviewer x did not provide a fair and balanced review of our work for <the following reasons>. Would you consider giving us another opportunity to explain the basis and results of our study?

In conclusion

You don’t want to miss out on the chance to get your work into high-profile journals and, remember, one of the most important steps is having gotten the study out for review in the first place.

As Winston Churchill once said:

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

This is especially true of academic research publishing!


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