Submitting an academic research article to a journal has been facilitated exponentially by the introduction of electronic/online submission. Once introduced, electronic submission quickly became the new standard. Not only is it easier for authors to submit their work, but it is easier for journal editors and reviewers to edit and referee manuscripts, given the enhanced networking provided by online communication. Authors may submit manuscripts from any place at any time. Conducting research in a remote location no longer proves to be a challenge. As long as there is internet access of some kind, a manuscript can be submitted from virtually any place on the globe.
In addition, with the ability to email materials instantly, reviewers can be located anywhere in the world. Further, their exchanges with journal editors and staff are far more efficient than in the past, making the review and editing process overall more efficient. Conversely, they can instantly opt out of reviewing a particular manuscript and another reviewer can be contacted immediately.
Tracking the Status of a Manuscript
Further developments in the online submission process help journals provide authors with access to manuscript tracking systems, which allow them to follow the status of a manuscript as it goes through the review process, post submission. Importantly, authors no longer have to wonder where their manuscript is in the review process—these systems provide transparency.
Examples of different manuscript submission systems include ScholarOne (SAGE and some Nature Publishing Group journals), Editorial Manager (Springer, Wiley, PLOS, and more), and EVISE® (Elsevier). These submission systems provide authors, editors, and reviewers with an efficient and easy-to-access method of checking the status of a manuscript; differ only slightly in terminology and processing.
Here’s a quick guide to various stages a manuscript undergoes post submission. Note that different terminologies may be used by journals and publishers.
- Submitted to Journal: This status means that the manuscript has been submitted to the journal. The manuscript is then screened to ensure that it meets the specified formatting requirements before it is assigned to an Editor.
- Technical Screening: The journal staff performs an initial check on the manuscript to ensure that the manuscript has been prepared per author guidelines specified on the journal website. If the manuscript does not meet the journal requirements, the manuscript may be returned to the author to make the required changes.
- With Editor: This indicates that an Editor has been assigned. The Editor checks to see if the manuscript fits the scope of the journal, assesses if the research meets the journal’s quality standards. If the manuscript clears the screening, it is sent for review; in case the manuscript does not meet journal standards, it is immediately rejected without review.
- Reviewer Invited: The Editor identifies reviewers to assess the manuscript and provide their comments. Note that this means that the reviewers have been invited, but the reviewers have not necessarily accepted to review the manuscript.
- Under Review: This status indicates that the manuscript has entered the review process. Peer reviewers now assess the study and provide their comments. The review process may take a few weeks or even months. While journals have a specific review period in place, the reviewers may sometimes exceed these timelines. Authors may approach the journal’s Editorial office to check on the status of the manuscript and request for an expedited review in case the specified review period has lapsed.
- Required Reviews Complete: This status indicates that all peer reviews have been completed. The Editorial office receives the reviewer comments and assesses them. This is then sent to the Editor-in-Chief for a final decision.
- Decision in Process: This means that the reviewer comments are being assessed and the Editor-in-Chief is in the process of finalizing a decision about the manuscript.
- Revise: The authors are asked to make a few changes to the manuscript, based on reviewer comments. The changes suggested may be minor or major – based on which the journal usually provides a deadline for submitting the revision.
- Revised Manuscript Submitted: The revised manuscript along with a rebuttal letter has been submitted to the journal after addressing reviewers’ comments.
- Completed – Reject: This status indicates that based on the reviewers’ comments, the manuscript has been rejected. In some cases, journals may offer to transfer the manuscript to another journal where the manuscript fits the scope better.
- Completed – Accept: This usually indicates that the Editor has found the revised manuscript to be satisfactory and the manuscript has been accepted for publication. The article is then handed over to the publisher to handle the publication process. The final proofs of the accepted article are sent to the corresponding author for a final check before publication. Once the author finalizes the article proofs, the article is published in the journal issue.