Revising a Rejected Journal Paper – Helpful Tips and Advice
Very few scholarly authors relish the thought of making time-consuming revisions to a document they had considered finished. However, when an acquisitions editor rejects a manuscript that has been submitted for publication or requests revisions before that manuscript can be published, there is no choice but to revise if the goal remains publication via that journal or press. Deciding on necessary revisions and communicating with the editor to ensure that the planned revisions will resolve the problems are only part of the process. Once author and editor are in agreement about the improvements that will render the manuscript publishable, there remains the enormous task of actually revising the document.

Recording your plans in detail as you devise them will help with the process of revision. Since the realities of editing text can sometimes cause an author to stray from the best-laid plans, it can be difficult to stay on track. Consulting your original ideas about how you would approach individual problems will therefore be essential, and it is also best to keep an eye on exactly what you told the acquisitions editor about the changes you planned. You will need to do what you said you would do, and to have a persuasive explanation for any revisions that were not done or done differently than you had expected. Fortunately, revision plans are usually explained to editors in a brief form, so there tends to be wriggling room for smaller alterations to the plan that will make no difference to that editor provided the problems preventing publication are resolved.

As the need for wriggling room suggests, along with adherence to a revision plan there ought to be some flexibility. No doubt a few weeks, perhaps a few months have passed since you finished writing the document, and with the passage of time come distance and some measure of objectivity. You may discover as you begin working on your manuscript that there are aspects you feel inclined to alter, though doing so had not crossed your mind before. You will want to think about such changes carefully and perhaps consult the editor about them if you think it necessary, but such revisions can produce an extremely positive effect.

Let us say, for instance, that reading through the report of your research results has convinced you that some of the data discussed in the text would be better presented in a table or two. Unfortunately, the results section was not an aspect of the paper singled out for attention in the editor’s criticism or your revision plans. Perhaps there were other elements of your manuscript that did draw attention in ways that will serve your purposes, however, and make that editor happy with your new changes as well. There may have been a general request for greater clarity or maybe a reminder that the document was just a little too long. Either or both might be explained as the reason for the unplanned revisions, and since the results (both in the paper and around it) will meet the editor’s needs, there will likely be little need for further explanation.