Journal decision-making process
Typically, after a paper is submitted to a journal, a journal editor screens the manuscript and decides whether or not to send it for full peer review. Only after clearing the initial screening is the manuscript sent to one or more peer reviewers. Finally, journal editors or the journal’s editorial board consider the peer reviewers’ reports and make the final decision to accept or reject the manuscript for publication.
Given the large volume of manuscript submissions, the journal follows a policy of screening papers before sending them for full peer review. During the initial screening, journal editors mainly check the following:
One of the first items that editors will look at is the cover letter, and they may not get further than the cover letter if the study does not seem interesting enough. Therefore, it is imperative that authors craft a well-written cover letter that highlights the significance and strength of their research as well as provides a good reason why the manuscript is a good fit for the journal. Editors will then go through the abstract and may even skim through the introduction, figures, and tables, or other sections of the paper to determine whether the manuscript passes their quality threshold.
Benefits of initial screening:
Once a manuscript clears the initial screening, it is sent for peer review.
There are three common types of peer review for journal publication:
Based on Double-blind peer review, a minimum of 2 peer reviewers (up to 6) is chosen for the peer review. Peer reviewers are ideally experts in their field. Journals usually build a pool of peer reviewers that have a good track record of producing high-quality reviews. Editors have to be careful to select reviewers who have sufficient subject matter expertise to do justice to the manuscript. Therefore, highly technical papers or papers from niche subject areas may take longer to review, because it may take editors some time to locate appropriate reviewers.
Some journals give authors the option of recommending preferred and non-preferred reviewers. Authors would do well to take advantage of this option if available as it can expedite the review process, since it saves the journal time in looking for reviewers. Furthermore, studies have found that author recommended peer reviewers tend to recommend acceptance more often than journal recommended reviewers.
The peer review is completed once all the reviewers send the journal a detailed report with their comments on the manuscript and their recommendation. Typically, journals ask reviewers to complete their reviews within 3-4 weeks.
The journal editor or editorial board considers the feedback provided by the peer reviewers and arrives at a decision. The following are the most common decisions that are made: