I understand it can be quite a nail-biting time when waiting for the journal to get back to you about your submission. In my experience, journal review times tend to vary by field of study, with some journals responding within 1 month and others taking even up to 8 months. Many journals mention their expected review times on their websites: for example, Elsevier states that most of its journals communicate decisions to authors within 4 months. Ideally, you should find out about your target journal’s review process and timelines before submission so that you can prepare yourself for the wait.
If your journal does not mention its expected review time, you can try checking previously published papers from the journal and see if they provide any statistics. Most journals mention the submission date, acceptance date, and date of publication for papers published online; the difference between the former two dates will give you the review time.
It’s important to remember that even if the journal mentions its expected review time, this is merely an average, and the actual time taken depends on various factors, like the journal editor’s ability to find suitable peer reviewers, the availability and responsiveness of the peer reviewers, and the extent of revisions recommended. If you have submitted your paper through the journal’s submission software, you can track the status of your paper, which will tell you if it is “Under Review.”
In case your target journal does not give any indication of its review time and you have no way of finding out the status of your submission, I would urge you to be patient until at least 4 months have passed. Thereafter, there should be no harm in you writing a polite reminder email to the journal editor asking when you can expect a decision or an update on the status of the manuscript. Most journal editors are or have been researchers themselves and would be well familiar with the anxiety an author faces waiting to hear from the journal after manuscript submission.
You can frame your email along the lines of the one below.
Dear [Insert journal editor’s name]:
This is with regard to my/our submitted manuscript, [Insert manuscript reference number], titled “[Insert manuscript title],” submitted to your journal on [Insert date of submission] for consideration as a [Insert article type, e.g., Original Article or Case Report].
We have not received an update regarding the status of our manuscript in the review process. Could you let us know when we can expect notice regarding the decision of the editorial board?
Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.
[Insert author name and correspondence details]
I hope this helps and that you receive a response from the journal editor soon. Good luck!
It would be interesting to hear from other researchers what’s the longest you’ve had to wait to hear from the journal.
For more information on the journal decision making process, see Peer review process and editorial decision making at journals.