Withdrawing an academic article: Considerations and actions
If you have carefully selected the journal for submission and made sure to research any possible fees associated with publishing before submitting, hopefully there will be no reason to need to withdraw your article. That said, there can be valid reasons for considering withdrawal of your submitted article. (Read here: Reasons for withdrawing an academic article)
Things to consider before making a withdrawal decision
Withdrawing an article from a journal after the peer review process has been completed is generally not considered good academic practice. Journal editors and peer reviewers dedicate extensive time to reviewing and constructing feedback, and a paper withdrawal can appear to undervalue this effort.
Also, withdrawing an article from a reputable journal after the peer review process and acceptance can damage your reputation with that journal and its editorial board.
Additionally, check the journal’s policies on withdrawal. Some journals state that withdrawal of an article after peer review and acceptance will not result in a refund of the article processing charges (APCs), if this fee has already been paid.
Preventing a withdrawal
As a researcher you are expected to do everything you can to prevent a withdrawal situation from arising. Having colleagues, experts and professional services support your completion of the paper can also help mitigate any need to withdraw it after review or acceptance.
However, if the need is legitimate, you can request a withdrawal and the journal needs to honour that request.
Alternative to withdrawal
There might be some way that the journal can accommodate your needs, so that the article does not need to be withdrawn. For instance, sometimes an editor may suggest transferring your article to another journal they publish. However, if there is no other reasonable option other than moving forward with the withdrawal you should formally request that your article is withdrawn accordingly.
Making an academic withdrawal
Email the editor and explain the reason why you are considering a withdrawal. Cite the title and any manuscript identification number, if applicable, to avoid unnecessary confusion. You should also fully acknowledge the effort of the editors and reviewers.
If your request is based on an error either you or your co-authors made, you need to explain that. For example, if this was a case of unintentional duplicate submission, you must explain why the duplicate submission occurred and how it was discovered, and whether the other journal has also been notified. If you discovered that one of your co-authors engaged in text plagiarism, then you should explain how this was discovered and whether the incident has been reported to the co-author’s department or institution, to let the journal know that the situation is being followed up on.
You need to have all authors sign the formal withdrawal request, and it is very important that you do not submit your paper to any other journal until your withdrawal request and been responded to and acted upon.
Waiting to submit to another journal
It is important to note that withdrawal is not complete unless and until you receive formal acknowledgement from the journal that the paper has been withdrawn. For example, if you decide to request withdrawal because a journal has still not sent your paper out for review three months after submission, you must wait until you receive confirmation of withdrawal from the journal before submitting elsewhere. This can be frustrating and feel like an additional delay, but is important in order to avoid ethical misconduct (in this case, by engaging in duplicate submission).
Things to watch out for during the withdrawal process
Once you submit a formal request for withdrawal of your paper, the journal should honour that request and not move ahead with publication, and reputable journals will respond in this manner. However, sometimes predatory journals ignore a request and do not acknowledge receiving it.
In addition to an email, send a formal letter to the editors and keep copies of everything you send. If the editor you are corresponding with does not reply, reach out to other members of the journal’s editorial board. If the editor is unresponsive, you can submit a request and formal complaint to the journal's publisher.
Not everything is within our control and unintended situations arise. However, try to preempt these situations by thinking through any possible complications before submitting your paper. If you still need to withdraw your article, follow the steps outlined above and don’t forget to acknowledge the journal’s efforts at every step.
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