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Why Do Editors and Peer Reviewers of Biomedical
Journals Reject Manuscripts?

April 2006
About this article

This article summarizes the main findings reported in a study published in Science Editor. Study details are provided at the end of the article. The information provided in this article will help authors in improving the quality of their manuscripts.
  • Flaws in rejected manuscripts do not occur with random frequency. When a manuscript is evaluated for publication, inappropriate study design is the most common reason for rejection.
    Authors should include complete and reproducible experimental details in the methods section.
  • Editors and peer reviewers ranked the most common deficiencies in the other three categories. The numbers represent the frequency of the observed deficiency.
    Category
    Interpretation of Findings
    Importance of Research
    Presentation
    Errors
    Conclusions not supported by data (61%) Data not very conclusive (25%) Data does not provide evidence of cause and effect (7%)
    Results unoriginal, predictable, or trivial (79%) Results have few or no clinical implications (13%) Results of narrow interest, highly specialized (2%)
    Inadequate or inappropriate presentation of data (32%) Confused or contradictory rationale (25%) No explanation of experimental design (25%)

paid to reporting the results and conclusion in a clear, concise, and interesting manner.
A possible explanation for a poorly written methods section is that researchers probably skip
or skim the methods section when reading a medical journal; therefore, they give this section very little attention
when they write their own papers.
  • Editors are more critical of language errors than peer reviewers.
    Editors give more importance to the following:
    • Writing style
    • Presentation
    • Journal format and policy
  • The most common language-related errors observed are as follows
    • Wordiness (43%)
    • Poor flow of ideas (21%)
    Authors should learn to write clear, concise, and logical sentences.

Notes: The null hypothesis that the frequencies of such fatal deficiencies would be randomly distributed among the respondents was rejected.