Editorial note: the content for this article is derived from a Lippincott/Wolters Kluwer Health webinar entitled, “What to expect from the peer-review process” conducted by Duncan MacRae, Director, Open Access, Editorial for Wolters Kluwer.
Peer-review: the hard truth
The first thing that you as an author need to understand about peer-review is that it isn’t a process so much aimed at improving your manuscript as it is looking for a reason to reject it. This becomes clear when you look at the low acceptance rates of highly regarded journals: a 15% acceptance rate means that there’s an 85% chance of rejection. There’s a harsh reality behind that simple math.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to move the odds in your favor.
The #1 way to improve your manuscript’s chances
The single, most important step you can take to improve your manuscript’s chances is a surprisingly simple one: carefully read and follow the Instructions for Authors. In the Instructions, you will get answers to key questions, such as whether your manuscript fits the journal’s scope, whether it publishes your article type, what content the Editors are looking for, and details on how to format your article. All of these are critically important items that can help you avoid a quick rejection.
What the peer-review process is really like
Peer-review is a process that is largely misunderstood by authors. Many people mistakenly believe it to be a simple process looking something like this:
Submission → Peer review → Adjudication
In reality, peer-review for a journal is a multi-step process looking more like this: