4 Steps to Improving a Rejected Research Paper Before Resubmission

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Having your work rejected feels awful—there’s no doubt about it. Still, having a research paper snubbed by an academic journal doesn’t mean it will never get published. In fact, rejections are much more frequent than you might think: Just about every academic has been spurned by journals at some point, just as every published author has had to deal with a string of rejection letters. If it happens to you, take comfort in the thought that a rejection is certainly not a reflection on your value as a researcher. 

When you first receive a rejection letter, it’s difficult to cope with all the negative emotions. We suggest you first give yourself some time to absorb the blow so that you don’t react rashly and emotionally. After a while, go back and reread the rejection letter, which should outline the reasons for your paper being turned down. Understanding what you did wrong is the first step toward improving your work. 

Not all rejections are equal. While some may be prompted by fundamental issues with your paper and research, others may have to do with more surface-level issues, and those are easy to fix. Often, papers get rejected before they’re peer-reviewed because the author submitted a sloppy or disorganized piece of writing or didn’t follow the journal’s submission guidelines to the letter. For example, a higher or lower word count or the wrong type of formatting are common issues that editorial boards look out for. 

If this is the case with your paper, the good news is it shouldn’t be too hard to resolve these issues before resubmitting your work for publication. Formatting is generally easy to fix, and adjusting the word count simply means adding more content of value or condensing your text without cutting any important information. However, there are other, more complex reasons why papers are commonly rejected, and issues that require serious work to eliminate are usually identified during the peer review process. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of extensively editing and possibly rewriting your paper, check out our deluxe academic package. With the help of our professionals, your paper will stand a much better chance of success.

So, what can you do to improve your rejected paper and increase your odds of having it published? 

1. Get thoroughly familiar with the journal

One of the main reasons academic journals reject research papers is that the submissions don’t fit the scope or style of the publication. It’s crucial to know who reads a given journal and what this audience expects based on the type of works it usually publishes. 

If your paper deals with topics outside a journal’s field, it’s going to be rejected, even if the research is ground-breaking and the text exquisitely written. Obviously, you wouldn’t submit a paper on machine learning to a medieval history journal, but even topics that might seem related could still be outside a journal’s scope. If you want to avoid rejection, you should know exactly what sort of topics this journal wants to publish. Moreover, it’s not just the subject matter—everything from language to geography can determine the scope, which is why you should be deeply familiar with a journal before you submit your work for consideration. 

2. Focus on innovation

This definitely isn’t as easy as fixing a few typos or adjusting the formatting, but papers with an innovative approach or methodology are much more likely to be published than those that feel derivative or deal with overdone subjects. If the journal’s editorial board feels your paper isn’t original enough, it will reject your work in favor of a more creative submission. Obviously, not every single published paper offers a completely novel idea or thesis, and nearly all papers build on previous research in the field, so you don’t need to overthink the innovation aspect. 

If your paper was rejected because it wasn’t innovative enough, don’t give up—this doesn’t mean your research can’t be published! Sometimes, it’s just a problem with the framing. It’ll require a lot of work, but finding a fresh angle—even if it means rewriting large portions of your work—will increase your chances of publication when you resubmit.

3. Be 100% original

Speaking of originality, plagiarism will definitely get your paper rejected. Depending on how much of it was copied, you might not get the chance to resubmit it for publication. Journals run all submissions through plagiarism detection software and will not accept anything that doesn’t meet their standards of originality. 

You may think this doesn’t apply to you because you would never plagiarize someone else’s work, but it’s all too easy to commit accidental plagiarism. For example, you might forget to cite a source or inadvertently omit the quotation marks around a direct quote, both of which are considered plagiarism. Of course, you have to include quotes and citations, but the way you use existing research and present your findings and conclusions will impact how original your paper is perceived to be. If you’re concerned that your work might contain accidental plagiarism, we can help with a thorough plagiarism check.

4. Submit high-quality writing 

Although it’s true that your research—the actual content and basis of your paper—is what’s most important, no respectable academic journal will publish something that doesn’t meet its standards, and that includes the quality of the writing. Naturally, your paper can’t be littered with typos, and slang expressions aren’t appropriate. However, good academic writing goes beyond vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and punctuation—organization and clarity are key to crafting a paper that’s engaging to read and easy to understand. 

Some academic writers think they can impress readers and peers by resorting to overly complex sentence structures and vocabulary that forces the audience to reach for a dictionary. Not only is that not impressive, but it also makes for bad writing. Demonstrate your effective communication skills by clearly and concisely explaining your subject matter and smoothly guiding the reader through your methodology and results. You don’t want subpar writing to distract from your research, nor do you want your paper to seem careless and unprofessional, so spend some time and energy on perfecting the quality of the writing. 

It’s not always easy to move on from a rejection, but it’s part of the academic publishing world and should be seen as a chance to produce a much better paper. Approach it as a lesson—now that you know what not to do, you have a better idea of what to do. If you need some help preparing your manuscript for resubmission, our deluxe academic package includes a detailed editorial letter with extensive feedback and suggestions, a requirements review to ensure you’re meeting all the submission guidelines, a full plagiarism report to identify anything that needs to be changed or eliminated, and combined proofreading and editing so that you can confidently resubmit your paper. 

To learn more, check out our deluxe academic package and start working with our team of professionals right away! 

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