Q: What to do if my manuscript has not been assigned to a reviewer for a long time?
I submitted a manuscript to a journal about a month ago. I was informed that the journal has started the process of finding a referee after going through the initial editotial screening. However, peer review has not started yet even though it has been over 4 weeks since I received this intimation. (If the peer review is started, it will be shown on the submission system.) I am worried about this situation, so I want to ask the editor about the status. When would be a suitable time to send the inquiry and what message should I send?
It is not uncommon for a journal to take more than a month to for the status to move from "With Editor" to "Under review." Once a manuscript clears the initial editorial screening, there are quite a few steps to be completed before the status changes to peer review. The editor has to first identify the requisite number of reviewers (usually 2-3) for the manuscript and then send out review invitations. if all the reviewers accept the invitation, the status changes to "Under review." However, if one or more reviewers decline the invitation, the editor has to start looking for reviewers again. If the second lot of reviewer invitations is also declined, there is further delay. This process goes on until the desired number of reviewers have accepted the invitation.
Therefore, I don't think you need to be worried about the delay. However, having said that, there is no harm in sending a polite inquiry to the journal. You can send an inquiry to the editor saying that it has been more than a month since the last status change and you were wondering when by can expect the paper to be under review.