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J Family Community Med. 2000 Sep-Dec; 7(3): 17.
PMCID: PMC3437075

Tips from the Editor

Common reasons why papers are rejected for publication

  • [arrowhead] The study did not examine an important scientific issue
  • [arrowhead] The study was not original (someone else has already done the same or a similar study)
  • [arrowhead] The study did not actually test the author's hypothesis
  • [arrowhead] A different type of study should have been done
  • [arrowhead] Practical difficulties (e.g. in recruiting subjects) led the authors to compromise on the original study protocol
  • [arrowhead] The sample size was too small
  • [arrowhead] The study was uncontrolled or inadequately controlled
  • [arrowhead] The statistical analysis was incorrect or inappropriate
  • [arrowhead] The authors have drawn unjustified conclusions from their data
  • [arrowhead] There is considerable conflict of interest (e.g. one of the authors or a sponsor might benefit financially from the publication of the paper and insufficient safeguards were seen to be in place to guard against bias)
  • [arrowhead] The paper is so badly written that it is incomprehensible

(Source: Greenhalgh T. How to read a paper. The basics of evidence-based medicine. London: British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 1997)

Problems encountered by technical and copy editors, authors, journal editors and reviewers

  • [arrowhead] Inconsistency in: spellings, use of units, presentation of units, use of symbols
  • [arrowhead] Too many tables/figures makes layout difficult
  • [arrowhead] Lack of care in determining levels of headings (keep to a minimum)
  • [arrowhead] Literary not scientific language/lack of clarity
  • [arrowhead] Errors in quoting from source material
  • [arrowhead] Errors in cross-referencing data (e.g. data in text does not match data in tables/figures; statements in abstract do not match statements/conclusions in text)
  • [arrowhead] Incomplete referencing: author, title, journal, volume, issue, date, page numbers, or author/editor, book title, place of publication, publisher, year, page numbers
  • [arrowhead] Too many references: are they all valid?
  • [arrowhead] Poor quality figures/photos
  • [arrowhead] Poorly designed tables

(Source: WHO and other sources)


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