How to resurrect a rejected manuscript?

Rejection of your research paper by a journal does not necessarily imply that your research is fundamentally unsuitable for publication. This is because rejection depends on several factors that might not be solely linked to the main thrust of your research. Besides, the reviewers who evaluate your paper are not familiar with your credentials and therefore might not emphasize the positive factors in your paper. Therefore, it is important that you do not get disheartened or overly disappointed. With certain modifications and perseverance, it is definitely possible to resurrect your research and see it through to publication.

In fact, there are several positive takeaways from a rejection. The well-known chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie carried out a systematic study of the rejection procedure and concluded that most manuscripts do not go through large-scale modifications on their way from a rejection to eventual publication. Therefore, a rejection does not signify that your paper is beyond redemption. In fact, there is every chance that the paper will ultimately find its destined forum for publication.

On the other hand, a study by Vincent Calcagno, ecologist at the French Institute for Agricultural Research in Sophia-Antipolis, has concluded that a research paper goes through several iterations and modifications from the time of its first submission until its final acceptance. These changes contribute significantly to the improvement of the research. The study also observed that research papers that have gone through one or more rejections before publication tend to be cited more than those that have been published following their first submission. This trend is evident after about three to six years following publication.

Calcagno argues that the influence of peer reviews and the inputs from referees and editors makes papers better and each rejection improves the quality of the manuscript from the last attempt. There is also a theory among certain editors to “reject more, because more rejections improve quality.”

Therefore, instead of giving in to despair, it is important to patiently evaluate the reasons for rejection and the associated comments, and to act on them in future submissions of the paper. You can also take recourse to professional editing services to refine your manuscript and help in the submission of the paper to other journals.

The following are some guidelines for first-time writers in making their papers more acceptable:

  • Select an innovative and interesting research topic.
  • Ensure that your writing is well-organized and lucid as it flows from its aim to the conclusion through the methodology, results, and discussion sections.
  • Stay away from plagiarized text and ensure that your research is original and unpublished.
  • Select the most suitable journal that has a good scope for your research topic.
  • Follow the reviewer’s suggestions on your paper in case of a rejection, so that it is in better shape for the next submission.

In case the reviewers cite the reason of unsuitability of your research for the target journal, it is important to prepare and resubmit it to another more suitable journal. If it gets rejected again, keep working on your paper and make repeated attempts at submission until it gets accepted. After all, patience and perseverance are two important virtues of any writer. As the well-known 19th-century American writer Elbert Hubbard said, “A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.”

Why journal articles face rejection?

When a manuscript is submitted to a journal, it undergoes a thorough quality check under the peer review process before being sent to the chief editor. Most articles face rejection during this process. There are several reasons for this.

1. The article is beyond the scope of the journal

Your article can be immediately rejected if it is not appropriate for the journal’s readership and does not meet the journal’s aims and scope. Besides, it is also likely to be rejected by the editorial board if it does not match the specified journal format. For example, if a review article is submitted to a journal that does not have the scope for publication of such articles, the editorial board is likely to reject the paper summarily.

2. The paper lacks key elements

The paper is unlikely to be approved if it is incomplete and lacks any important information, such as author’s affiliations, e-mail address, keywords, figures and tables, in-text citation of figures and tables, references, a proper structure, etc.

Lack of novelty and originality in the paper or suspicion of plagiarized information can also lead to an almost instantaneous rejection. Incomprehensible articles that show poor language skills of the author are also not acceptable.

3. The paper failed the technical screening process

If you have submitted your paper to more than one journal simultaneously, a particular journal might consider it unethical. Consequently, the paper is likely to fail the technical screening process. Even papers that do not meet the technical standards of the preferred journals are also rejected in the screening process. For example, a paper might be rejected for non-compliance with certain points in the submission checklist.

4. The paper is conceptually weak

While conceptualizing the paper, the author might fail to resolve certain fundamental problems that could result in unoriginal or impractical results. These problems include flaws in the study design, incomplete data analysis, use of an inappropriate method for statistical analysis or a poorly formulated research question. These basic defects might lead to rejection of the paper.

5. The paper is not well prepared for the journal

A paper is liable to be rejected if it is not formatted according to the journal guidelines. Disregarding such guidelines might result in excessive use of jargons, deviation from the focus of the journal, improper formatting of figures and tables, poor organization of contents, inadequate description of the methodology, poor writing standards, complex and convoluted sentences, and frequent grammatical errors. These factors will have a negative impact on the reviewers and will probably contribute to a rejection.

6. The journal is overloaded with submissions

Sometimes, a journal receives a flood of submissions within a short period. This restricts the available space to include papers in several forthcoming issues. Consequently, rejection is inevitable for many submissions, including some high-quality manuscripts. Conversely, a journal might receive several papers on the same or related topic. In such a situation, the journal will be forced to cherry pick and might return some well-conceptualized papers in the process.

7. Journals have their decision-making policy

Rejection of the paper also depends on a journal’s decision-making policy, which varies from journal to journal. Some journals forward the paper for a second screening if they are unsure about the quality of the manuscript. On the other hand, editors of certain journals aim to publish papers that are related to current research topics and their acceptance rate is directly proportional to the number of articles received in this genre.

As evident, there is a gamut of reasons for the rejection of a paper and the author needs to take cognizance of these facts for a better understanding of the rejection process. The author needs to keep in mind that the quality of a paper is not the sole reason for rejection; several other reasons can also contribute to the rejection of a submitted paper.

The Knowledge Web: Illuminating Your Research

The scope of research is beyond measure and cannot be structured or contained in a single research guide for which knowledge web is need of the hour. Considering the vast well of information, researchers often face problems in zeroing-in on articles that are most suited for their research area. They often take recourse to the World Wide Web in their quest for articles of interest. In this process, researchers use the web crawlers of their favorite search engines. This generates hundreds of sites that store information on the topic of interest. Usually, the first few search results show articles that are cited repeatedly and are the most relevant references for the research. This leads researchers to the important journals and authors related to the field of interest and helps them adopt strategies accordingly.

Although the search results are displayed within few seconds, the researcher needs to devote considerable time in building a mental model of a research field and giving the most apt query for the search engine to return the best and most relevant results. Therefore, a mechanical search on the Web will be grossly insufficient. Instead, the researcher needs to conduct a search for material other than that found on the Web, and must follow up with a wide reading on the subject. That will help the researcher identify the precise data or information require from the search engine. Even after thorough scrutiny of the material, there is a high risk of information masking that could lead to missing out on an important piece of work.

The best way to obtain an overview of a research field is to conduct knowledge domain visualizations. This process expands the ability of researchers to recognize and analyze a knowledge area through several quantitative and qualitative methods. They are able to use tools such as visual analytics and information visualization to analyze data, retrieve information, and mine text from available sources. This process will answer most of their research queries and help avoid repeated searches on the Internet.

Knowledge domain visualizations save valuable time of the researcher in searching, indexing, and structuring data. Knowledge domain visualizations are not only beneficial for individual researchers or a single subject, but also provide a platform for accessing specific publications. It even provides a quick overview of a research field.

In searching for research material on the Web, the automated or mechanical procedure falls woefully sort. On the other hand, manual interventions can improve results significantly and lead to a more substantial research output.

Scientific Journals: The Knowledge Storehouse

Scientific journals date back to 1665, when the publication of research results began. A scientific journal publishes scientific data periodically on recent breakthroughs in the field of science.

Who benefits from scientific journals?

At present, there is widespread acceptance of scientific journals and articles published in them. This magnifies the importance of the researches brought to light in such publications. It has been proven that scientific journals are of great import for academicians, researchers, and students of science and allied fields. The journals also have a profound impact on the overall educational system.

Advantages derived from scientific journals

  • Scientific journals promote and develop active learning skills among students and researchers. In fact, current research shows that reading journal articles provides an impetus for deeper thinking.
  • As you start browsing different research articles in journals, you will notice that the findings are  well organized and the overall conclusions are backed by evidence. The scientific articles carry research-oriented analyses or findings of researchers as well as students.
  • The research papers tend to keep pace with recent developments in the relevant field.
  • Researchers or students can derive valuable information for their own research area because they come across timely updates through these publications.
  • Scientific journals widen the scope for exploring one’s own research subject.
  • They help readers gain in-depth knowledge, especially through citation of case studies that can act as a research base. This encourages a thorough analysis and often leads to the formulation of novel hypotheses.
  • Even if you are engaged in research toward the submission of your doctoral thesis, you can benefit from valuable feedback if you publish papers in relevant scientific journals.
  • It is possible to search for and access the latest research topics easily from scientific publications.
  • Academic credentials of researchers receive a major boost from published papers in scientific journals, which stands them in good stead for their career objectives.
  • Scientific journals provide a platform for research scholars to express and pen down their research ideas at length.
  • Scientific journals represent a varied spectrum because each journal represents a specific stream of research. Such scientific publications bridge the gap between articles and books by publishing the researches of different authors, thus creating a single interactive platform.

Use of passive voice in scientific writing

While writing research papers, scientists, researchers, or scholars are faced with the challenge of sentence construction. Most grammar perfectionists advise the use of active rather than passive voice while writing. The “voice” refers to the relationship of the subject with the object and the verb in a sentence. When the emphasis is on the subject, the sentence is in the active voice; when the emphasis is on the object, the sentence is said to be in the passive voice.

First, passive constructions are functional when the agent or the subject is unknown, or when the agent is obvious or unnecessary. For example, the sentence, ‘Equipment was damaged during the experiment’ can be composed without referring to the person behind the action.

Occasionally, passive constructions also help evade responsibility. For example, the sentence, ‘The judgment was taken for this case’ can be written without citing who made the decision. This construction focuses on the investigation only, i.e. on the object of the sentence and not on the investigator or the agent of the sentence.

Alternatively, if we choose the active voice to portray the investigator and the investigation of a research, it would become monotonous and might make the content dreary.

Second, the passive voice allows one to convey a notion of objectivity. Thus we can say, ‘the experiment was completed, and the data was analyzed’ rather than ‘I completed the experiment, and I analyzed the data.’ This concept of reflecting objectivity in scientific writing might be the reason for scientists to settle on the passive and not the active voice and first-person pronouns.

Finally, passive constructions sometimes reduce the clarity of a sentence. This is obviously a negative aspect, yet it is apt for writing where researchers or scientific writers are unsure of their thoughts and the medium to express them. Currently, usage of the passive voice has become a trend in scientific writing where writers often modify their active sentences to passive ones.

The passive voice is especially useful in technical and scientific writing. It reduces the word count of sentences in comparison with those in the active voice, and sometimes contributes to a concise piece of writing.

While recognizing the value of the passive voice, it is advisable to balance the usage of the active voice and the passive voice in your writing. While a rigorous use of the active voice often makes sentences arduous and complex, it is also equally true that an overuse of the passive voice might make the writing just as difficult to comprehend.

Conflict of Interest Disclosure

A fundamental requisite of a publication in any reputed journal is the need to provide readers with unbiased and unambiguous research. Toward this objective, a published article should disclose whether the author or authors had any competing interest or conflict of interest while preparing the article. Consequently, the onus is on the journal to publish such disclosures in the paper so that readers, who include researchers, professionals, practitioners and scholars, are aware of them while evaluating the paper.

According to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), there is a case of “competing interest” or “conflict of interest” when professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients’ welfare or the validity of research) may be influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain). Such conflict is likely to affect the credibility of the journal as well as that of the author(s).

Conflict of interest may arise from potential relationships or allegiances, or from hostilities against particular groups or organizations. It may occur when a specific factor influences one’s judgments or actions significantly. In such situations, personal gain has an ascendancy over scholarly output.

Today, most journals publish papers that are not only based on the output of the authors, but also largely impacted by the inputs of peer reviewers, editors, and editorial board members of the journals. All such participants, who play a critical role in the process of finalizing a paper for publication, also need to seek any disclosure from the authors that could be perceived as a potential conflict of interest.

The general format of the conflict of interest form includes:

  • Author and co-authors’ conflict of interest.
  • Statements declaring whether the supporting sources are involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data.
  • Explanation regarding the authors’ access to the study data, including the nature and extent of the authors’ access and validity.

Declaration of any conflict of interest is an ethical requirement for researchers at the time of submitting their manuscripts for publication. Being upfront about any potential conflict of interest is likely to increase the trust of the readers in the publication and places them in a position to make an honest evaluation of any likely bias in the research findings.

Is self-plagiarism ethical?

Research papers or journals are the medium of spreading knowledge and new ideas evolved. Innovative and original piece of work would certainly be more educative and admirable. Nevertheless, authors and writers are often found to be reusing their old piece of work or some extracts from their previous published papers while writing a new research paper.

When questions are raised against this content reuse, authors claim that those stuffs are their own works and materials, and thus, they can reuse them as they wish, and it cannot be termed as plagiarism since they have not stolen the ideas from any other author or source.

The ethics of plagiarism are not applicable to such reuse, as a result of which it has been overlooked till date. While the discussion is whether this reuse is ethical or not, the publications and the journals, on the other hand, have set certain guidelines for such works citing it as Self-plagiarism.

What is self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is a form of plagiarism where the writer reuses his/her own previously published work in portions or entirely while creating a new study paper. It can breach the publisher’s copyright on those published work when it is reused in the new study papers without appropriate citations. Let us now know more about the ethical aspects of self-plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism can be detected when:

a)  A published paper is used to republish elsewhere without the consent of the co-authors and the publisher of the paper or work.

b)  A paper of a large study is published in small sections with an intention to increase the number of publications.

c)  A previously written work either published or not is reused again in portions in the new study papers.

Although the laws of self-plagiarism are not enforced, it somehow reflects the dishonesty of the author. Moreover, the journals and the publishers are rejecting such copy-paste works as they are seeking writings based on original research findings and proper citations of all the references.

Nowadays, journals are also pointing out questions on the reuse of one’s own work. In order to avoid self-plagiarism, one should try to keep his/her work original, and in case it is necessary to include any portion from his/her previous works, it should be then properly cited with proper references. I hope this article will surely help you in detecting prospective self-plagiarism before submitting your paper or work to publications or journals.

Writing a research manuscript

While editing different research manuscripts, I have often observed the lack of presentation in the content matter; as a result, in spite of having a good amount of results, the manuscript becomes very weak in terms of readability and clarity. Here are few suggestions that might be helpful for the beginner to understand how to write an effective research manuscript. A research manuscript can be of different types: original article, reviews, short communication, rapid communication, letters, etc. Here I will limit my discussion on how to plan for writing a manuscript for an original article.

Before you start writing the manuscript, take a few steps back, gather all your results and ask yourself few questions: Is it a new and original work? Does it have a clear objective or hypothesis? Did you make a significant amount of progress to achieve the goal? Are all your claims supported by appropriate data? Can you explain gist of your work in one or two sentences? If all the answers are YES, go ahead and start writing the research manuscript.

There is a general structure for each type of research manuscript. For writing a manuscript of an original article, the following structure should be followed:

Title

Abstract

Keywords

IMRAD (the main body: Introduction (I), Methods (M), Results And Discussion (RAD))

Conclusions

Acknowledgements

References

Appendices/ Supplementary

This should be the format and the order of final presentation; however, the order of writing would be little different.

First, prepare all your figures and tables. This will help you in assessing the standard of your work; accordingly, select two or three journals. Once you finish writing choose the target journal among them. Following is the order you may start writing:

1. Start with the “Method” or experimental section (if you are theoretician, first work on your Theory) of the manuscript. This section should be written in detail so that any reader, if needed, can reproduce the results by following the method you described. If you have used any previously established method, cite the appropriate reference without going into detail. For chemicals, cell lines, antibody, etc., mention the company or lab from where you bought or procured it. For instrument, it is important to mention the model number along with the company name. Same is for any software, for example, Sigma-Plot, SPSS, etc. (mention the version).

2. Next, start the “Result” section of your manuscript. Briefly writing the protocol could be effective. Present all the main findings;  you may present the secondary data in supplementary section. Refer the figures and tables in order. Use sub-headings while presenting results of same type together. Do not discuss and interpret the results here, if you have a separate “Discussion” section. However, in case of common “Results and Discussion”, you need to interpret. For this, you need to check the “Author guidelines” of your target journal and accordingly, plan your presentation.

3. Once you finish the result section, you will see a story has already built up in front of you. Now, start writing the “Introduction” of the manuscript. “Introduction” should reflect the background of the study, i.e., what made you interested or inspired to undertake this project. Discuss already published studies in the field. Remember, while presenting the previous literature, you should take care of the logical flow of the content. “Introduction” of a manuscript sets the beginning of your article; do not ruin it with irrelevant facts. The last paragraph should present the objective of your work clearly, and care should be taken to maintain the logical flow with rest of the introduction.

4. Once you have the “Introduction”, “Results” and “Methods” sections ready, it is easy to write “Discussion” of a manuscript. Start “Discussion” with the answer of the questions raised in the “Introduction”. The “Discussion” section of a manuscript not only involves interpreting your findings, but also comparing your results with the previously reported studies. This is very important. Often, I see the authors only discuss their result without comparing with the existing reports. If you have obtained improved results, explain the reason. At the same time, if your findings are not in accordance with the published report, try to give explanation. This could be some difference in methods or due to some limitation in your study. Besides explaining the significance your work, you must explain weakness or discrepancies of your work (if any).

4. Once you are done with the “Discussion” of your manuscript, go back to “Introduction” and refine it. Depending on how far you could achieve the goal, you need to refine. Go through the entire manuscript couple of times and find out if something is missing or over stretched. Once you are satisfied, think about “Conclusions”

5. “Conclusions” helps a reader or a reviewer to judge the work presented in the manuscript. Remember, “Conclusions” of a manuscript should not be the rehash of “Results”. In this section, you should briefly present only the key results, followed by how far you achieved the goal. Limitations (if any) should also be told very briefly and end with some future study or application.

6. Again, go back and refine your “Introduction”.

7.  Take utmost care while writing “Abstract” of your manuscript. It should be clear and at the same time interesting. Do not drag it (keep it within 250-300 words as most of the journal recommends). If your target journal wants a structured abstract (Background-Objective-Results- Conclusions), it is easy for you to write; however, you may always write the “abstract” following this structure in mind. Try to present a clear objective with highlighting the key findings and end with a robust “conclusions”. A clear “Abstract” sets the mood of a reader whether your manuscript will be considered for further reading.

8. Keywords are used for indexing and it increases the visibility of your manuscript if published. Therefore, choose keywords (generally five or six maximum) those exactly relate to your study.

9. “Title” is the most crucial part of a manuscript, attracting readers. Title should be crisp and chosen in such way so that it represents the content of a manuscript in a “nut shell”. Take more time to come up with an appropriate title.

Finally, revise, revise, revise…..

Technical Translation

Technical translation is the type of translation, which requires a considerable amount of understanding and skill. A technical translator is not only a translator, but also a specialist and an expert in the related field. Technical translation is required to translate machine installation manual, patent papers, user manual, research papers, project reports and thesis, etc. Technical translation consists of content related to scientific and technological data. A technical translator performs the duty of transferring the text from one language to another in an understandable and a logical way without changing the intended meaning. Somehow, a technical translator works as a technical writer. A technical translator should have high level of knowledge of the topic. Aside from the knowledge of the topic and the language, a technical translator should also have knowledge of psychology, technical communication and usability engineering.

The present article on “Technical Translation” provides some basic tips that every translator should follow in order to improve their work.

Tips for Proper Technical Translation

Reading and understanding the text:

In order to offer outstanding technical translation services a technical translator should read the text carefully before translating it. This helps the translator to understand the subject-matter more clearly. In case there is any confusion, the translator must refer to the reference books and subject-specific dictionaries for guidance.

Using the correct language:

Avoid using inappropriate single word, which can make the whole text meaningless. For instance, mechanical parts and instruments should be translated carefully. A technical translator must have adequate knowledge about the location-wise meaning of that specific word as one word has different meanings of different regions.

Vocabulary and uniformity of words:

There could be a contrast in the words used generally and that which is used while doing technical translation. There are certain subject-specific words that must be used by the technical translator for the precise and valid technical translation. Besides, there should be uniformity in the terms used for a particular thing. If a specific term has been used for a specific matter the same term should be used throughout the content.

Using industry-specific words and terms:

A technical translator must use the industry-specific terms while performing technical translation. A single technical translator cannot be a professional in all fields. Thus, technical translation service providing companies appoint industry-specific technical translators for different sorts of technical translations.

Reviewing and proof-reading:

After completing translation of the text, it is important to review and proof-read the final work. This helps in preparing an error-free technical translation. Proof-reading must be carried out considering three parameters: (i) grammar, (ii) spelling, and (iii) technical vocabulary.

By following the above given tips, one can gradually learn to effectively translate any text from one language to another in a clear and coherent way without changing the intended meaning. Eventually, this can be mastered with regular practice.

Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Initialisms

Abbreviations

An abbreviation is a short form of a word or phrase that is used to represent the whole term. For example, etc. for etcetera, Sat for Saturday, Dec for December, Sonar for Sound Navigation and Ranging, UK for United Kingdom, etc. Abbreviations can be of many types; the most common ones are Acronyms and Initialisms.

Acronyms

An acronym is formed from beginning letters, syllables or parts of a word or phrase. It forms a new word and is usually, but not always, in all capital letters. An important point to remember is that acronyms are pronounced as words. It is a subset of abbreviation, i.e., all acronyms are abbreviations, but the reverse is not true.

Examples:

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)abbreviation

Scuba (Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)

Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging)

OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay)

RAM (Random Access Memory)

LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation)

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization)

 

Initialisms

An initialism is another type of abbreviation that is made up of the initial letters of the name or phrase. It is different from an acronym as the former is pronounced one letter at a time, i.e., each letter is read separately, and not as a word.

Examples:

BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)

FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation),

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)

HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language)

IBM (International Business Machines)

DVD (Digital video disc)

BTW (By the way)

UN (United Nations)

USA (United States of America)

CD (Compact Disc)