4 Basic reasons a peer reviewer might reject your manuscript
While working as a peer reviewer, I recently recommended rejection for three papers. I want to share the problems I spotted in the three papers to help other authors avoid rejection .
1. Similarity in paper titles and content: I rejected one of the papers as two papers by the same author had almost identical titles. When I began reading the submitted paper, my initial impression was good. However, the journal asked me to compare this paper with another paper published by the same author as the two papers appeared to have too many similarities. I checked both papers and found that there was in fact a difference of only one word in the titles of both the papers. For example, both titles had the same construction:
- The effect of vanadium in superalloys on material properties
- The effect of niobium in superalloys on material properties
Indeed, the author can claim that this does not amount to duplicate submission because vanadium and niobium are different elements. However, the same formula, figures, and tables appeared in both papers. Another interesting thing was that the first paper was not listed in the references in the second paper. Therefore, I recommended rejection of the manuscript, citing lack of novelty as the reason.
2. Inconsistencies in affiliation information and other facts: It is almost impossible to have zero errors in a paper; peer reviewers themselves receive comments to improve their own submitted manuscripts. It is very difficult for ESL authors, including me , to write papers in English without any problems in the language. However, I think it is necessary to pay attention to basic formatting issues . Authors should let reviewers feel that they have put considerable effort into writing their paper. Reviewers might want to reject a paper that has errors in the affiliation information—in the third line of the manuscript itself . Consider the following inconsistency in affiliation information as an example:
- University of Wollongong, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Department, Australia
- Science Department, University of Wollongong, Australia
More instances of such inconsistencies that left a negative impression on me, and would on other peer reviewers, are as follows:
- Figures 3-18 described the feature of… (There were only figures 1, 2, and 3 in the paper.)
- Over the past two decades, the mechanical properties have improved a lot…[99-105] (There were only 18 references in the paper.)
- Sam  has conducted research on large deformation of the metal deformation behaviour (The reference for Sam was missing from the reference list.)
- Si  has conducted research on large deformation of the metal deformation behaviour (The author had written Si L. et al. in the reference list. However, the correct name was Li S. et al.)
Such errors can make the peer reviewers feel that the authors not only did not put sufficient effort into preparing their manuscript but also copied a lot of content from other papers.
3. Lack of logic in content flow and presentation: Normally, a paper contains the introduction, research design, results, discussion, and conclusion; and there is one main idea connecting them all. The logical flow of a paper helps in describing the study effectively. For instance, if the title of a paper is “The effect of vanadium in superalloys on material properties,” the paper should ideally describe the main application for superalloys and the main alloying elements, followed by why exploring the effect of vanadium in superalloys on material properties . Next, it should explain how the experiment was conducted and how the study was concluded. The paper I was assigned for review had good content, but it was discussing different topics in each section, and they were so disparate that each of them could have been used to create a standalone paper. The author seemed to have squeezed them into one paper without any logic, to maintain the paper’s length.
A good paper does not need to have a lot of content; it needs to have a logical flow of ideas so that the research is communicated as a seamless, reasonable thought. Adding irrelevant details to a manuscript to make it look longer may result in rejection.
4. Mistaken research result: The biggest difference between scientific papers and blog articles is the specialized terminology and professional knowledge scientific papers offer. However, if there are basic mistakes in terminology in a manuscript, reviewers are likely to reject it. For example, in my field of engineering, there are two distinct terms: “stress - engineering strain curve” and “true stress - true strain curve.” Both the terms have certain commonality, but are not identical. Interchanging ‘stress - engineering strain curve’ with ‘true stress - true strain curve’ would be a very basic mistake.
Peer reviewers do not want to reject a manuscript unless they have a strong reason to do so because they know that getting published is any researcher’s dream. But if an author is too careless with his/her manuscript, it leaves reviewers with few options. If any of the problems I have discussed exist in your manuscript, you should take time to rectify them before submission, to increase your chances of acceptance.