What do Editors and Reviewers do with Submissions? Let’s Explore the Mystery

A complete guide for reviewers and authors to break through the scientific publishing hurdles

Afzal Badshah, PhD
ILLUMINATION
6 min readFeb 17, 2022

--

Photo by pexels.com

When I was requested to evaluate an article a few years ago, I felt honoured to finally be on that stage. I started looking for review templates on the internet and was fortunate enough to locate one that I could use. Remembering those days, I felt I should design a short tutorial for early-career researchers. The aim was to assist them in not just preparing their work for rapid publication, but also in understanding how articles are evaluated.

Why peer review?

Though the peer review process delays the publication process, however, it is the heart of sound science. The peer-review (pre-publication review) significantly improves the paper before publication. The statistics show that the top journal accepts only 3% to 5 % of submissions. In this article, we actually cover the pre-publication peer review mystery.

Pre-publication peer review is a process where the article is reviewed by the expert of the fields for novelty and quality. It is the foundation of science.

Pre-publication peer reviews are categorized as

  • Single-Blind Review: The reviewers know the authors in a single-blind review, however, the authors are unaware of the reviewers. This process is followed by the majority of publications, including IEEE.
  • Double-Blind Review: Both the reviewer and the author are unaware of each other in a double-blind review. Only a few publishers, such as Elsevier, use this method for manuscript review.
  • Open Review: This is rarely used and not advised. Both the reviewer and the author are familiar with each other in this review procedure.

Science is already complex and early scholars make it more complicated with inappropriate lanague. Poorly writen menuscript is the top reason of majority paper rejections.

Peer review tutorial by the Dr Afzal Badshah

The reviewer’s first impression

Before proceeding to the complete read, the title, abstract, and introduction are reviewed. Reviewers scrutinise the manuscript’s structure as well as the usage of graphics. References are a crucial element of the study, and they are frequently examined how they support the paper. I mean, most recent and top journal references are expected.

What does the reviewer expect from the title?

The title of the manuscript is the first that is read first by everyone. On the clarity of the title, it is decided whether to read it further or not. Regarding the title, it is expected to be simple and cover the domain, the problem or objectives, and the methodology used for the study. For example

Optimizing IaaS Provider Revenue Through Customer
Satisfaction And Efficient Resources Provision

The topic covered in the example above is cloud computing, the aim is IaaS provider revenue optimization, and efficient resources provision is a methodology to achieve the objectives.

What do reviewers expect from abstract

Following the title, the abstract is the second section of the article which is read by the reviewers. Reviewers expect a clear picture of the elements discussed in the abstract. The abstract should not fail at any cost to clearly answer the questions;

  1. What is the purpose of the study?
  2. What is the fundamental problem of the investigation?
  3. What are the achievements?
  4. What methodology is used to achieve the outcomes?
  5. What are the results?

Reviewers expect a clear presentation of the problem, objectives, and contribution in the initial sections of the manuscript.

Along with these questions, the publishers’ specific guidelines are followed. The length of an abstract, for example, is normally limited to 150 to 250 words.

What do authors miss in the introduction and literature?

The most common issue I notice in papers during reviews is that authors claim different things in the abstract, summarise different things in the abstract, then explain different things in the introduction. The methodology section, as well as the results section, do not support the previous description. As a result of the uncertainty, the reviewer rejects the study.

Photo by pexels.com

The background, present needs, motivations, gap statement, objectives, and contributions of the study are covered in the introduction. In a nutshell, the introduction must provide enough information for the reader to comprehend the study. Confirm whether the above-mentioned inclusion (methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion) is justified or not. Additionally, ensure that the idea is significant, distinctive, and begins with a hook statement.

To be published in reputed journals, the study must be original, well-structured, and well-written.

Poor writing, disorganised content, and a lack of recent literature are the most common reasons for failure in the literature. The most typical error committed by early writers is that rather than a strong backdrop and the section’s crux, they begin with the author’s name. This significantly disrupts the flow of the document and irritates the reader.

The editorial expects the header sentence to be a strong hook statement to hook the reader with a paragraph

What methodology demands

Reviewers expect that the author will back up his statements with suitable methodology (e.g., observational, experimental, simulation, etc.). Experiential techniques or simulations are commonly employed in science to verify their idea. The difficult part, which most authors overlook, is determining which approach should be employed to test the hypothesis. I’ve seen several research papers where the simulator utilised doesn’t even support the demonstrated results. The selection of an improper dataset or experimental design is the second significant blunder that is frequently made.

I’ve seen a number of research papers where the simulator utilised doesn’t even support the demonstrated results.

Photo by pexels.com

Evaluating data and results

Accordingly, the first question that comes to mind is: Is there a need for statistical analysis? If yes, then the article is well supported with that? Are the stats aligned with goals and contributions? These are the first questions that come to mind when reading the evaluation and result’s sections.

The most typical mistakes made by authors are: Sample size is not clearly specified, measurement units are not elaborated, and the section does not respond to the claims. Furthermore, the graphs and tables are the most important component of this section to demonstrate the study’s contribution and superiority. Authors frequently fail to adequately describe their captions, abbreviate them, incorrectly identify the columns and rows, and don’t cite them in the text in a logical order.

Authors must ensure that graphs and tables are well defined, that no abbreviations are used, that captions provide a complete description, and that they are mentioned in the text in proper order.

Evaluating discussion and conclusion

The objective of the discussion is to compare your study to other studies and analyse the study’s strengths and weaknesses. Despite the fact that this area necessitates considerable attention and investigation, the majority of authors overlook it. As a result, if the study requires it or similar studies exist, this part must be included so that the readers can learn about the study’s strengths and weaknesses. The conclusion part discusses how the goals were met, how the gaps were filled, and what the future plans are.

Peer review tutorial by the Dr Afzal Badshah

Ethics considerations for reviewers

Every editorial wants every reviewer to complete the review in a timely and professional manner. Furthermore, the reviewer is expert, assured, and provides a fair and helpful assessment. The following questions must be answered before the review may be agreed upon.

  1. Can I provide an unbiased review?
  2. Do I have any conflict of interest?
  3. Am I an expert in this field?
  4. Can I maintain confidentiality?
  5. Can I provide a fair and constructive review?
  6. Can I meet the deadline?

Before submitting to the journals, the review process needs to be explored so the paper may be prepared according. Manuscript preparation might take months, if not years. Similarly, the review procedure takes approximately a year or more. Reviewing papers can take longer than that in some cases, such as the present COVID scenario. After months or years of evaluation, no one expects the paper to be rejected. The guidelines outlined above can assist authors in overcoming publishing obstacles.

To explore more about professional scientific writing, please see the following article

--

--

Afzal Badshah, PhD
ILLUMINATION

Dr Afzal Badshah focuses on academic skills, pedagogy (teaching skills) and life skills.