A journal rejecting a submission is an unfortunate reality in the life of an academician. This is especially true for young scholars who rightly feel dejected given the hard work and high expectations hinged in their submissions.
However, a journal rejection is not the end of the world and there are still various options before a young scholar, depending on the exact type of rejection. Here are some quick tips on how to react to a journal rejection.
What type of rejection: Read the communication carefully to understand what type or stage of rejection has been made by the journal. In some cases, rejections are desk rejections, where the editors reject an article in the first stage of sorting. This may be due to poorly written or structured articles, failure to follow formatting instructions of the journals, lack of proper English, improper referencing, etc. These can be easily rectified and you can share it back after revision with the same journal.
Poor fit with the journal: Often journals reject articles because it does not fit their exact focus area or the interests of its readership. In such cases, you may either try to rework the research paper, but perhaps it makes more sense to try some other journal perhaps better suited for your research paper. Sometimes, journals also suggest ‘insignificant advancement to current knowledge’ as a reason, which basically means your article is not adding much value to the present discourse. This is where you have to think about how to improve upon your work to make it more relevant.
Reviewer Comments: Reviewers often share detailed comments and suggest resubmission post revision. This is not a total rejection but an ask to improve upon your paper. You can revise your research paper and resubmit it with a detailed response to the review comments.
Technical issues: Sometimes journals reject submissions because of technical factors. There may be complaints of plagiarism, insufficient data work, reviewers finding flaws with the methodology or data collection, challenges to the hypothesis, etc. For plagiarism, often unintentional due to improper referencing, it is best to engage professional editorial help for a plagiarism proof manuscript.
Critiques of data work, methodology, etc are serious concerns that require not just a relook at the research paper but the entire research exercise. In such a case, you may either choose to revisit your entire work, or you may choose to share a revised version with some other journal, as the one who has rejected it on these grounds is unlikely to entertain even a revised version.
Change journals: This is always an option, often a tempting one, especially an emotional one in wake of rejection. except for some specific reasons, trying to resubmit to a new journal means only going through the entire submission process all over again. This means delays as well as extra work. Therefore, such a decision, if taken, must be done judiciously considering all factors of rejection.