Q: How should I interpret the rejection email notification from the journal editor?

Detailed Question -

I received a rejection notification by email that includes the following sentence: “While your work is well conceived and presented, we feel it is only a lower priority for XX.” Should I take this as just a fixed phrase sent to all rejected papers, or would this be unique feedback for my paper?

1 Answer to this question

Sorry to know that your manuscript was rejected. This seems to be a desk rejection, because the responses for these are usually standardized. In the case of a post-review rejection, the feedback would be more specific.

To answer your question, this is largely a “fixed response.” However, in the phrase “lower priority,”  there may be some indication of why it was rejected. Perhaps the journal has received many such papers recently and doesn’t wish to publish any more because they don’t offer a very new perspective on the topic.

So, you could fix your paper by trying to increase its novelty and/or looking for a journal that is accepting more papers on this topic in recent times. For ways to highlight the novelty in your paper, you may refer to this previous query by another researcher: How can I highlight the novelty of my paper to improve its chances of acceptance?

To reduce the back and forth, you may also wish to send presubmission inquiries to the next target journals. Here’s more on how to write a presubmission inquiry: How to write a presubmission inquiry

And for understanding the various reasons for rejection and help with journal selection, you may find these articles useful:

Hope that helps. All the best for the next rounds of submission!

PS. While on desk rejection, it may help to also know about R Pubsure, an AI-based manuscript assessment tool from a family brand, Researcher.Life (or simply R). R Pubsure puts your draft manuscript through a range of checks (such as for language, structure, declarations, and plagiarism) to provide a submission-readiness score. Based on the score, you may keep improving your manuscript before submission to ensure it is as submission-ready as possible, thus aiming to minimize or even avoid the chances of desk rejection. If interested, you may learn more about R Pubsure here and view a sample readiness check report here.