Why do you need to know the status of the manuscript?
Your manuscript has been accepted, so what happens next? Generally, this is a three-step process: manuscript submission, peer review, and post-acceptance preparation. After a manuscript is submitted to a target journal, it undergoes peer review. However, several steps occur that often only the corresponding author is aware of. Once submitted to a journal, the manuscript travels around quite a bit and the manuscript status is followed using the manuscript number. The manuscript is either accepted or rejected. Following peer review, if a manuscript is accepted, it then undergoes proof development and a review process prior to publication. This process is often tedious as it requires careful review of the publication-ready version of your manuscript. If you miss anything here, it may be difficult to correct!
Once the manuscript has been received by the journal, it is assigned a manuscript number. The staff at the journal will check for compliance with formatting and style requirements. Meanwhile, a managing editor in the appropriate subject area performs an initial screening to decide if it is worth sending the manuscript for peer-review. During this “triage” stage, the editor may issue what is sometimes called a “desk rejection.” In brief, these rejections are due to the manuscript either being insufficiently novel, containing obvious problems with methodology or simply being off-topic for the journal.
Any required additional missing information will be solicited from the corresponding author prior to peer review. Anyone involved in peer reviewer must first accept the invitation to review your manuscript. Then, once all reviewers are in place, the manuscript is peer reviewed, which results in peer review reports that are returned to the editorial office for consideration by the Editor-in-Chief. In the end, the manuscript is accepted, rejected, or indicated to require revisions for the second round of peer-review.
After the manuscript has been accepted, several logistical steps are taken to prepare it for publication. First, in some instances, the English language in the manuscript must be improved. This may be performed using an editing service. Whether this step is completed before or after acceptance is at the discretion of reviewers and editors. Indeed, some journals will accept the manuscript and perform subsequent editing or instead require the author to complete the editing process. Then, an invoice for the publishing fees is submitted to the corresponding author, which is subsequently paid prior to journal formatting. Once paid, the journal performs typesetting and manuscript proof development, which are approved by the editorial staff and proof management staff prior to being returned to the authors for review.
Finally, the proofs are reviewed by the authors involved in the study. Any requested corrections are returned to the journal until proof approval is granted. At this stage, the manuscript will often be published online in advance and, in some cases, in print. Weeks or months later, the manuscript information is transferred to PubMed or other central repositories for indexing.
Common Concerns and Questions
This general timeline varies by journal, the length of the peer review process, and uniqueness of each manuscript. Furthermore, various journals often have status descriptions that indicate the step that the manuscript is at during the review and publication process. Once your manuscript is submitted to a journal, it is important to keep the manuscript number handy! It will be used to track your manuscript through the peer review process and provide any other updates regarding your manuscript status.
Tracking your manuscript status in journal submission systems
Once you’ve submitted a manuscript for publication in a journal, you may be anxious about your manuscript status. You may be asking: Who sees the manuscript after I submit it? When will I know if it’s good enough to move on to a peer review? When will I receive comments from peer reviewers? How long does it take to accept a manuscript? How will I be notified if it’s accepted or rejected? To address these questions, journals using Editorial Manager for submission and peer review workflow can configure status terms that are conveniently displayed on author dashboards. This means that authors submitting to these journals will see customized editorial status that can help them to understand which stage a submission is at within the peer review process.
Most journals have online submission systems, which have definitely made it easier and quicker for authors to submit their manuscripts. This is because online submission has completely abolished the uncertainty of postal speed, an obstacle faced when manually submitting a manuscript. In addition, online submission has also eliminated the need for several emails, saving the author from rummaging through different versions of the document. Thus, it is a boon to authors who are no longer vulnerable to losing out on important suggestions for change before publication, merely due to cluttered email. Once a manuscript is submitted, the online article tracking system allows authors to follow the journey of their manuscript. Post submission, authors experience a lot of anxiety, and it is natural for them to keep checking their manuscript or article status.
Whereas most journals provide detailed guidelines for the format of the research paper, they rarely, if ever, explain what various status displayed on the article tracking system denote. As a result, it sometimes becomes difficult for authors to figure out what a particular status means, and this increases their anxiety. They also become confused and nervous when they see the same status over a long period of time, or when the article status erratically fluctuates.
While each journal or publication house might use a slightly different term for each status, in general, here are the different possible status that the tracking system might show from submission to final acceptance or rejection:
|1. Manuscript submitted:
|This means that the manuscript has been successfully submitted and approved by the author. After this, the manuscript usually goes through a formatting check by the journal staff before it is assigned to an editor.
|2. Editor Invited:
|This step is optional and may not occur in all journals. This means that the manuscript has been assigned to an editor and is waiting for the editor’s acceptance.
|3. With Editor:
|This status indicates that an editor has taken charge of the manuscript. At this stage, the editor completes an initial screening of the manuscript, and if he/she finds it suitable for the journal, it is sent for peer review. If the manuscript does not match the scope of the journal or does not meet the standards of the journal, it will be returned without review. In such cases, it might show “Decision in Process” as the next status, and in all probability, the author will be informed of the rejection in a few days.
|4. Reviewer Invited:
|This step is optional: this step may not occur in all journals. Once a paper passes the initial screening stage, the editor looks for peer reviewers for the paper. When the system shows the status “Reviewer invited,” it means that invitations have been sent out to reviewers, but they have not yet accepted. Sometimes, the tracking system may show the “Reviewer Invited” status for some time and then move back to “With Editor.” This probably means that the peer reviewers have declined the invitations, and the editor will now have to look for other reviewers.
|5. Under Review:
|This status means that the manuscript is under peer review. Peer reviewers are busy scientists, and peer review is an honorary service that requires detailed scrutiny and evaluation of the manuscript. Hence, this is perhaps the most time-consuming part of the entire publication process. It can take anywhere between one to four months, depending on the journal and the field of study.
|6. Required Reviews Complete:
|This status indicates that all the peer reviews have been completed and received by the editorial office. Sometimes, the editor, after going through the reviews, might feel that an additional review is required. In such cases, the status might go back to “Under Review.” So, do not be surprised if this happens: once the additional review is completed, the status will come back to “Required Reviews Complete.”
|7. Decision in Process:
|This means that the editor is now taking a decision on your paper based on the peer reviewer comments and his/her own opinion. If required, the editor may consult the editorial board at this stage. Once this status shows up, the author is generally informed of the editorial decision in a few days’ time. However, in some exceptional situations, several weeks pass by with this status constantly being displayed, and the author does not receive any decision. This might happen if the editor is very busy and there are a lot of other papers queued up at his/her table, waiting for their turn.
|This indicates that the author has been asked to make major or minor revisions depending on the reviewer comments, and the submission is now with the author. The author is usually given a deadline of a few weeks to a couple of months depending on the nature of revisions and the field of study. The author can request that the deadline be extended by writing to the editor in advance. The author needs to submit the revised manuscript along with a point-by-point response to the reviewer comments.
|9. Revised Manuscript Submitted:
|This indicates that the author has submitted the revised document. The document is now awaiting a formatting check by the journal.
|10. Author Declines to Revise:
|This shows that the author has clicked on an action link indicating that he/she does not wish to submit a revised version of the manuscript. In other words, the author is not ready to make the revisions suggested and would like to withdraw his/her paper.
|11. Completed Withdrawal:
|If an author chooses to withdraw his/her paper, the withdrawal process is complete once the author has put in a request for withdrawal and the editor has agreed to it. Remember that an e-mail from the editor confirming the withdrawal is absolutely necessary before the manuscript can be submitted to another journal; else it may be considered as a duplicate or simultaneous submission.
|12. Completed Reject:
|In case the author has made the revisions requested by the peer reviewers and editor, the final decision on the manuscript could be either “accept” or “reject.” In case the editor is not satisfied with the revisions, the paper could be rejected. This status shows that based on the revisions and the author’s responses to the reviewer comments, the editor has made a final decision of rejecting the paper.
|13. Completed Accept:
|This status indicates that the editor is satisfied with the revisions made by the author and has made a final decision of acceptance.
Please remember that all journals might not display exactly the same or all of the status mentioned above. On the other hand, some journals might display a few status that have not been included in this list