Academic research, journal publication, peer review, Scientific journal, rejection, acceptance of a manuscript, reviewer


Purpose: In scholarly journal publication, blind peer review has become an integral part of the process that helps maintain the standard and quality of academic papers that are accepted for publication. The main purpose of this study was to understand the reasons for the acceptance or rejection of a manuscript by analysing the reviewers’ comments based on the ratings on eight specific areas of concern and their written comments.

Research method: The study was based on a content analysis of 248 reviewers’ comments for a total of 160 manuscripts. These papers were submitted to an academic journal between September 2017 and February 2018. 62 reviewers’ comments were analysed for 32 manuscripts that were accepted, and 186 reviewers’ comments were analysed for the 93 papers that were rejected. The reasons for desk rejections were analysed for the remaining 35 manuscripts.

Findings: The study has identified the most important reasons for acceptance based on their rating and these are: adequacy of literature review, research methodology/study design, structure of the paper, quality of the writing, quality of the problem formulation, discussions and conclusions, findings and quality of analysis, importance/relevance, title & abstract and research contribution to the body of knowledge. The main reasons for rejections are: poor discussion & conclusions section, substandard quality of writing, poorly structured paper, weak study design/methodological issues, lack of research gap, poorly developed literature review among others.

Conclusion: Structural problems are one of the most salient issues for the manuscript. While the context of the manuscripts is generally reasonably well developed, many authors seemed to overlook or ignore areas such as use of the English language, accurate punctuation, structure of the paper that includes poorly developed tables, figures and diagrams, inappropriate citation and list of references, unsuitable research instruments and poorly developed critical review of literature.

Originality/value- The study is original and contributes to the body of knowledge as it provides insight into reasons for acceptance and rejection of a manuscript based on the contentment analysis of 160 manuscripts. This will provide guidelines to the authors with valuable information on the ways in which they can develop their manuscripts with a view to increasing the likelihood of acceptance by a peer reviewed scholarly journal.

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