Deborah Oyine Aluh

My journey with academic rejection continues today as my latest paper was just rejected. And so, here I find myself writing about this frustrating topic once again! It’s almost like venting about academic rejection has become a personal hobby of mine. Can you relate to the feeling of receiving rejection emails right when you’re already having a terrible day? It’s as if they purposely choose the worst possible moment to deliver the blow.

Regardless of how many times one’s manuscript has been turned down by academic journals, the sting of rejection feels just as sharp as if it were the first time. It doesn’t matter how great your work is or how many times it has been recognized in the past; the feeling of inadequacy always creeps in with every rejection. You would think that after facing countless rejections throughout my five years of research, I would have built up immunity to the negative effects. Heck, I’ve even written an article on how to cope with academic rejection. But even my own strategies can’t seem to shield me from the overwhelming negative emotions that come with receiving a rejection email.

How can one person’s opinion hold so much power? Who are these journal editors anyway? Demi-gods? I can’t even decide which type of rejection is worse—the immediate ones that make you feel like your work is complete garbage or the ones that take their time, leaving you in suspense and making you question if the rejection was a tough call.

So, I understand that not every submission can be accepted for publication, but perhaps there are more dignified ways to reject an article. I once received a rejection letter from a psychiatry journal with the subject line “IMMEDIATE REJECT,” all in uppercase letters. Unfortunately, it was the first thing I read in the morning, and it completely ruined my week. You would think that a `psychiatry journal` would have better judgment when it comes to sending such emails.

In my previous article about coping with academic rejection, I suggested having a rejection ritual, like indulging in ice cream. However, given recent events, this doesn’t seem like a sustainable solution. I’ve been facing a lot of rejections lately, and consuming that much ice cream would probably lead to more health issues than being a chain smoker. Nevertheless, my suggestion about having a backup plan still holds. Having an alternative journal in mind can greatly soften the blow of rejection, especially if you’ve done your research and formatted your manuscript according to their guidelines. This becomes even more crucial when faced with an “immediate reject—your work is worthless—no review” situation or when the review comments are nonsensical yet the editor rejects your paper anyway. In such cases, you can simply submit your work to your Plan B journal and hope for better luck. But what if it faces the same fate? That’s why you should have Plans C, D, E, and F as well. While submitting to Journal B, consider also formatting the manuscript according to the guidelines of Plan C Journal. This proactive approach always helps because time is your biggest adversary in this game. Time won’t wait for you to mourn your rejected manuscript before embarking on the fresh cycle of searching for a new journal, formatting, and submitting. And if you’re a Ph.D. student whose graduation hinges on having accepted manuscripts, the pressure is even more intense. Resubmit, then allow yourself to grieve and vent about the rejection.

Despite the temptation to drown my sorrows in ice cream and rant about rejection in this blog article, I decided to resubmit my rejected manuscript before writing this post. It will probably be rejected again, but I’m prepared with Plans C and D 😊. Plus, I get to publish this blog post on my website without the fear of it being rejected!

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