What are the next steps once my article is accepted?
It is exciting to receive an email confirming that your paper has been accepted. And certainly, congratulations are in order: it is not easy to have a paper accepted for publication so you should feel proud. Unless your paper has been accepted without revision, which is rare, you still have some way to go towards achieving publication.
Typically, there are five main decisions that are made as a result of the peer-review process. These are:
Rejection with option to resubmit
Accepted pending major revisions
Accepted pending minor revisions
Accepted in current form.
We discuss the first two of these in another article, What are the next steps if my article is rejected? A publication accepting an article in its current form with no revisions is very rare. So, an acceptance of your paper will generally indicate that you need to make either minor or major revisions. Minor revisions can include many items within the paper that need to be revised, but typically not a major shift or addition to the paper. Major revisions are more substantive and will typically require rethinking some areas of the paper based on the reviewer's comments.
Step 1. Understand the reviews and suggested revisions.
You should start by carefully reading the editor’s comments, the suggested revisions, and the reviewers' comments. Make a comprehensive list of all the editor’s and reviewers' comments and suggestions. This list will guide your revision of the paper.
Step 2. Revise your paper.
Take the list of comments and suggestions and group them into categories, and then identify which require a minor revision and which require a major revision. Minor revisions will include formatting or writing suggestions and are typically issues you can easily address. Major revisions include issues that are more substantive and will need deeper analysis on your part. Start by revising areas that are easiest to address. Highlight in your paper any areas that will require a major revision and go back and revise these once the more straightforward revisions are complete. Seek feedback from knowledgeable colleagues about comments that are more difficult to interpret or understand. It is important to focus on changing only those areas or aspects of the paper that were identified as needing changes by the reviewers. Don’t significantly change the direction of your paper or carry out additional analyses of your paper if these were not areas raised by reviewers.
Step 3. Check your revised paper before resubmitting.
Make sure you have addressed all the reviewers’ and editor’s comments before you resubmit. As you edit the paper you need to make sure that you are still following formatting guidelines. So, check the revised paper for formatting and proof it for any writing errors. Additionally, you should have shared the revised paper with all co-authors for their comments.
Step 4. Construct a revision response.
You should have a detailed response that you send back with your revised paper indicating how you have addressed all the suggested revisions. Go through the comments and suggested revisions made by the editors and reviewers and articulate how you have responded to each of them. One approach to doing this is to simply copy all revision suggestions into a document and type your response under each one. This is an approach that helps ensure that you respond to everything. There may be places where you do not agree with the suggestion, or you believe the reviewers did not fully understand what you intended to communicate. In these instances, respond professionally and courteously and simply tell the editor what you have done to address this, for example by making the writing clearer or adding more detail.
When constructing your response, do not include any criticism of the reviewers’ comments. The tone should be professional and courteous. Address everything, even minor comments. This way the editor can easily see that all suggested revisions have been addressed in some way.
Once you submit the revised paper it will generally go back through peer-review, especially if it was accepted pending major revisions. Often the journal will use at least some of the original reviewers. This review and revision process can involve a few iterations: it is still possible that the editors determine that your revised paper has not addressed the revisions adequately enough and they can still reject. Once your paper is accepted with no further revisions or reviews required, you will work with the copy-editors on paper proofs to ensure that everything is ready for publication.
Withdrawing a paper
If you have carefully selected the journal for submission and made sure to research any possible fees associated with publishing before submitting, hopefully there will be no reason to need to withdraw your article. Withdrawing an article from a journal after the peer-review process has been completed is generally not considered good academic practice. Journal editors and peer-reviewers dedicate extensive time to reviewing and constructing feedback, and a paper withdrawal can appear to undervalue this effort. So, make sure you have fully considered all factors before submitting so you don’t need to withdraw. Withdrawing an article from a reputable journal after the peer-review process and acceptance can damage your reputation with that journal and its editorial board. Additionally, check the journal’s policies on withdrawal. Some journals state that withdrawal of an article after peer-review and acceptance will not result in a refund of the article processing fee, if this fee has already been paid.
Sometimes there are very valid reasons to request a withdrawal of your paper. For example, if the journal is taking an incredibly long time to confirm receipt of the paper, or the review process takes much longer that you could reasonably expect. It is also possible that through the revision process, after peer-review, there are inaccuracies or major errors within the data reported on in the paper. Perhaps you discover that one of the researchers collaborating on the study did not perform all procedures in an ethical way. Another reason for requesting a withdrawal is if you realise the paper has been submitted for publication elsewhere, or perhaps realise that a paper you submitted for presentation was included as a publication in the proceedings of a conference. As a researcher you are expected to do everything you can to prevent these situations from arising, but if they do you can request a withdrawal and the journal needs to honour that request.
If you absolutely need to request a withdrawal, email the editor and explain the reason why you are considering this. If your request is based on an error either you or your co-authors made, you need to explain that. You should also fully acknowledge the effort of the editors and reviewers. There might be some way that the journal can accommodate your needs, so that the article does not need to be withdrawn. For instance, sometimes an editor may suggest transferring your article to another journal they publish. However, if there is no other reasonable option other than moving forward with the withdrawal you should formally request that your paper is withdrawn accordingly. You need to have all authors sign the formal withdrawal request, and it is very important that you do not submit your paper to any other journal until your withdrawal request and been responded to and acted upon.
Once you submit a formal request for withdrawal of your paper, the journal should honour that request and not move ahead with publication, and reputable journals will respond in this manner. However, sometimes predatory journals ignore a request and do not acknowledge receiving it. In addition to an email, send a formal letter to the editors and keep copies of everything you send. If the editor you are corresponding with does not reply, reach out to other members of the journal’s editorial board. You can submit a request and formal complaint to the journal's publisher, if the editor is unresponsive.
As a researcher you are expected to do everything you can to prevent these situations from arising, but if they do you should request a withdrawal which must be honoured by the journal. Not everything is within our control and unintended situations arise, however try to preempt these situations by thinking through any possible complications before submitting your paper. Having colleagues, experts, and professional services support your completion of the paper can also help mitigate any need to withdraw it after acceptance.
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