Memo for MBI-Lab Postgraduates from Prof Kuan-Pin Su—Avoid Desk Rejection

Memo for MBI-Lab Postgraduates from Prof Kuan-Pin Su—Avoid Desk Rejection (Translated by Wu Suet Kei & Kai-Jie Yang) 

中文版:MBI-Lab研究生備忘錄:避免Desk Rejection(蘇冠賓)

The desk rejection rates of high-impact journals are very high currently. To avoid spending the valuable time and effort of peer review, the editors-in-chief (EIC) and associate editors often screen out the majority of the low-quality manuscripts (As the peer reviewers tend to be too busy to accept the invitation to review articles for journals). 

Here are the reasons why the EIC rejects your submission within three minutes (although it may already take two weeks to start reading your manuscript files): 

1. The main reason for Desk Rejection: No novelty can be found in the Title & Abstract. Lack of clear focus in hypothesis and the research purpose. The Abstract is vague without specific data or descriptions. In addition, the research topic does not match the journal's Aims and Scope (For example, the editors could not find all the components of of Brain(Neurosciences)/Behavior(Psychiatry or Psychology)/Immunity(Inflammation or immune) in the Title & Abstract when you actually submit to Brain Behavior and Immunity). 

2. Secondly, poor language & poor manuscript presentation. Multiple mistakes at first glance. Especially if the Abstract is not well written, it is like a "suicidal" behavior of authors. Writing that is hard to understand and frequent grammatical mistakes will cause the chief editors to subconsciously question the professionalism and reliability of the research. Moreover, you must be sophisticated with the document softwares. The improper layouts and formats will cause a bad impression. For example, you need to consider that most of the articles are now digitized as PDFs, which make the reviewers easy to read on a laptop or tablet (or even a mobile phone). The reviewers might got annoyed to read a title page that last 4-5 pages long and flipping multiple pages when reading the Abstract if you still use the double-spaced all the time. 

3. Third, the managing editors always receive the plagiarism report of the article synchronously automatically attached by the submission system. If the repetition is too much, it will be instantly rejected.

Researchers, who do not have much experience in writing papers, must face the problem of the lack of academic English ability, because "academic English ability" is different from the real "English ability". The academic writing skills are easy to improve. Under the indulged care of the supervisors, some researchers constantly rely on the supervisors to correct the most basic and common mistakes. As a result, the supervisor will become more and more reluctant of revising the papers from those students who do not put much effort into their writing, thus slowing down the productivity of the research students. Therefore, graduate students should read widely, imitate the writing of similar papers, practice writing, write a lot and bravely ask experienced teammates to make peer review, build up courage from making mistakes, and avoid the following common mistakes:

1. Don't stop with the "first draft, leave blank, unfinished" version, instead, you need to send the "submission-ready version of the manuscript" and cover letter" to the supervisors. The so-called submission-ready version means "if the professor does not edit it, the article can be immediately submitted". Students should try their best to complete the version that they think can be submitted, and then only ask the professor to revise it. (See: https://cobolsu.blogspot.com/2022/08/blog-post_14.html)

2. Abbreviation from nowhere. You need to spell it out for the first time. And the sessions of Title, Abstract, Text body, Figures, and Tables are all independent (spell out again). 

3. Making common grammatical mistakes repeatedly (Native English speakers recognize these errors at a glance, and subconsciously doubt the reliability of the research)
  • Single versus plural
  • Missing/incorrect indefinite/definite articles
  • Pronouns
  • Spelling out when first use
  • Incorrect tense, ...
  • You must know why it’s grammatically wrong, otherwise, you will make the same mistakes again and again. After that, revised the whole article carefully, make sure no similar mistakes, and send it back to the professor for revision. Please don’t rush, learning is much more important.
4. Avoid Ineffective and Meaningless Sentences: The worst situation is INEFFECTIVE and REDUNDANT SENTENCES. (Even native English speakers make such mistakes). Here is an example of INEFFECTIVE and REDUNDANT SENTENCES: 

5. Avoid poorly structured paragraphs: The first sentence is the one-sentence summary of the paragraph, and each sentence must have a complete concept. For example:  

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