Q: What does it mean if my manuscript is forced to be withdrawn?

Detailed Question -

I am writing concerning my manuscript that was forced to be withdrawn after being previously rejected. The manuscript was withdrawn exactly a week after it was rejected. I thought that after rejection there would be no further decision on the manuscript. What could be the rationale behind this decision?

1 Answer to this question

The situation you have described seems peculiar, and we wonder if that’s because of the terminology. What we mean by this is that ‘withdrawal’ is typically done by the researcher (for issues such as delay in consideration/review by the journal or selection of a wrong target journal), not by the journal. A journal can only ‘retract’ a published paper, but that’s a very serious issue and only for published papers. As yours was rejected, this is a non-issue.

Now, you could mean the ‘withdrawal’ of a preprint, if the journal also uploaded your manuscript to an associated preprint repository. Some journals have tie-ups with preprint servers, where they upload a submitted manuscript within a few days of receiving the manuscript. Researchers may not always be aware of these associations, so it may come as news to them later that their submitted paper is available for the perusal of all interested readers. If this is the case, the journal, after rejecting the manuscript, may have pulled out (or ‘withdrawn’) the manuscript from the preprint server. If this was indeed the case, the journal actually did the right thing. (For the opposite of such a scenario, and its attendant issues, you may refer to this recent query by another researcher: What should I do if the same submission to a new journal is rejected because the information was not updated in the associated preprint system of the previous journal?)

Alternatively, by ‘withdrawal,’ you may also have meant that the journal pulled out your manuscript from its submission system and archived it, as your paper is no longer in consideration. For more information on this practice, you may refer to this previous query: What is the meaning of "archiving completed" status?

If however there is some other aspect to your query that’s not clear here, you may add to it, and we’ll be happy to respond to that as well.

However, what we would suggest you do is that, as the doors have closed here (and that too, quite ‘firmly,’ based on the ‘withdrawal’ scenario), and if you think your paper can be accepted by some other journal, you should begin working toward that. To avoid further rejection (for now and for the future), you may find these resources useful.

Hope that helps. All the best for your next steps!