Most journals will send manuscripts to at
least two respected workers in the field in which you are writing.
It is their role to examine your work critically and compare it with the
quality they expect to read in scientific journals. They will
comment on all issues which need to be addressed to bring your paper up to
that standard. That means that when you receive comments back from
the editor it can appear as though they have been picking at every small
part of your work and not praising you enough. But while praise is
often given it is usually dealt in small rations. If you need a pat
on the back then look for it from your boss not the referees.
It is not pleasant for anyone to receive
criticism about their work and it can be particularly difficult if this is
your first paper. But, don't be upset. Remember it is the job
of the referee to make sure that only the best papers are published so
they are almost certainly going to find some aspects of your manuscript
that they don't agree with. In this regard it is worth remembering
that over the last four years no paper has been accepted for publication
in the International Forestry Review without some modification
being asked for from referees.
If you can't stand criticism then the
answer is simple: don't offer your paper to a journal. Science
publishing is a tough business and it is important to keep standards high.
If you paper is of poor quality it is important that it isn't published.
But if you want to see your work published you have to read carefully what
the referees are telling you. Look on this process as a positive
part of your work. After all, you are getting free advice from two
You will be expected to respond to each of
the comments made by the referees when you send your revised manuscript
back to the editor. This doesn't mean that you necessarily have to
agree with them but if you don't you will have to explain exactly why you
don't and justify your views with clear arguments. It is important
to remember that editors do not take sides with the referees. It is
not a case of 'me against them'. An editor is only interested in
making sure that work of the highest standard is published in the journal.
So, don't be afraid to say you don't agree with the referees, as long as
you can justify your view.
In some cases journal editors will put
your paper in a certain category such as 'falls outside the subject of the
journal', 'rejected', 'accepted with minor modifications'. These are
fairly self-explanatory but a covering note from the editor will explain
what is required of you. In other cases categorisation has been
surpassed by a detailed letter from the editor specifying the changes that
are required. In both cases the author should be given clear
instructions about what the next stage. If you are unclear then get
back to the editor and ask them to be more specific.
Once you have made the necessary alternations
to your text the next step is to re-submit your paper. You should
send a covering letter, or email, to the editor explaining in detail how
you have responded to each of the comments made by the referees. The
editor will check these and determine whether you have done this to
his/her satisfaction. If not, you will be asked to rectify the
situation. However, if the editor is happy with your changes the
paper will be passed for publication.
The length of time between acceptance for
publication and seeing your paper in print can vary between 3 months to 2
years. While this might seem like a long time it is the result of
limited availability of publication space in journals. Most journals
give a rough idea of publication times on their websites. If not,
ask the editor.
The publication process is a long and
sometimes rocky road but it is hoped that this guide has offered you some
assistance with each step. Follow these recommendations and you will
save yourself a great deal of extra work and improve your chances of your
manuscript getting into the journal you are aiming for.