Can You Fix a Mistake in Your Academic Paper After It’s Been Accepted for Publication?
Having your research paper accepted for publication in an academic journal is a huge step, so congratulations! Getting published can dramatically boost your reputation and academic career prospects, and it gives your work more exposure, allowing you to have a larger impact on your field or even the world.
We know it took tons of time and effort to achieve this goal, but, unfortunately, anyone can make mistakes. Even if you meticulously edited your paper and checked it over and over, you could still find an error in there right before it’s time for publication.
It’s rare to uncover a mistake in a paper after it’s been accepted because it has already gone through multiple rounds of editing, rewriting, peer-reviewing, and proofreading. However, it can still happen. Typos also slip through in commercial books after countless rounds of editing and revisions, and academic papers are no different. Although they can be fixed in certain cases, in most instances, if you find a mistake in your paper after it’s already been scheduled for publication, there’s not much you can do.
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So, can mistakes be fixed after your paper has been accepted for publication? Well, it depends.
How does the submission process work?
Although every journal has its own process, after an article has been approved for review, the author is usually assigned an editor, who conducts the initial review of the research. The author then has a chance to make changes as suggested by the editor—including alterations to the data itself, not just the writing—before external reviewers check the submission for quality (i.e., a peer review).
Based on the feedback from the peer review, you can slightly tweak the writing, but the data is locked in as soon as the editor formally accepts your paper for publication. Then your text goes through one last round of proofreading before the file is finalized, optimized, and approved for publication. This is the round meant to find those pesky little errors that have still managed to slip through and to eliminate any typos that may have been introduced in previous revisions. Occasionally, though, typos can sneak in even here.
Due to the complexity of the review and approval process, any changes in the data or content will not be sanctioned—at best, you can only do small touch-ups. Expect the majority of requests you make for changes to be rejected after the editor has reviewed the article because that would require repeating the peer-review process, increasing the workload, and delaying the publication of the paper.
That being said, if you do catch a factual mistake—something that affects the integrity of the research—you should definitely tell your editor before your article is published. A typo is one thing, but a mistake that seriously impacts the quality of your research is a major problem.
What changes can be made before publication?
As explained, amendments to the text generally won’t be approved after an article has already been peer-reviewed, but there are a few minor exceptions.
For example, you may be able to edit display items such as graphs or diagrams, but only if it’s for the sake of clarity—you can’t modify any of the actual data a display item presents. The same goes for any typeset errors—they may be corrected if they’re critical, but this is unlikely after so many rounds of editing and proofreading. If it’s just a trivial typo that doesn’t change the meaning of a sentence or impede comprehension, you’ll have to live with it, as embarrassing as it may be.
Since many journal articles have multiple authors, it’s not uncommon for changes in authorship to be requested (and approved) before publication. For example, one of the authors can be moved to the contributions section rather than featured as a main author if their input isn’t sufficient to qualify them as an author, but all the contributing authors must approve the change. These changes tend to be simple and straightforward, but it’s best not to have to request any alterations once your work has been approved for publication. Therefore, if you’ve co-authored the paper with others, try to finalize details such as authorship before you submit it.
To avoid having to request a last-minute change to your article, it’s best to have your manuscript proofread and edited by a professional. We’d be happy to help you with this, so click here to get an instant quote.