Academic journals use acceptance and rejection rates to monitor any unusual trends and analyze whether the number of papers they were accepting or rejecting was too high. These rates generally depend on the quality of papers submitted to a journal within a period of time. These rates are sort of an internal quality control benchmark, as opposed to the impact face, which is an external benchmark. Generally speaking, an acceptance rate of a journal is a measurement of how many manuscripts are accepted for publication when compared to the total number of manuscripts submitted. Unlike what some may think, journals do not usually decide at the beginning of the year that they will reject a certain percentage of journals submitted. The rates naturally fall into a range. Rejections may happen for a number of reasons, such as the manuscript being seen as poorly written or submitting an excellent manuscript that is out of the journal’s scope. Sometimes, journals may set a target, but this is only used as an internal benchmark to monitor whether there are any unusual rate spikes, and the target varies from month to month (Herbert, 2020).
Journals with a low acceptance rate are sometimes viewed as more prestigious and require better research to get a manuscript accepted. However, many doubt whether this is always the case. For example, some journals let an editor decide which manuscripts even make it to review by the editorial team and calculate their acceptance rate based on those manuscripts, which is a much lower number than the total manuscripts received. Other editors do not even keep an accurate count of the acceptance rate and opt for submitting an estimate for the acceptance rate. Another thing to keep in mind is that some highly specific journals only have submissions by the few researchers and scientists who work within the scope of the journal, and that can artificially increase the acceptance rate of the journal. On the other hand, multidisciplinary journals such as Science or Nature will receive way more submissions than they can publish, even without paying attention to merit, which will result in a low acceptance rate. Also, journals that publish a limited number of paper issues, as opposed to issues online where page counts do not significantly affect costs, will have lower acceptance rates. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask whether the acceptance rate matters and whether it should influence your decision when evaluating which journal to submit your paper to (Herbert, 2020).
It is noteworthy that most journals do not post publishing acceptance rates on their website because authors who might otherwise submit a manuscript might be put off by a low acceptance rate. Editors of journals reject papers for various reasons and will often provide insightful feedback and helpful comments to the authors. Most editors often overlook language problems, such as grammar, and will focus on reviewing papers only on the basis of scientific content. If the paper goes through the revise-and-resubmit cycle, however, editors expect and advise authors to seek professional help regarding language. This is where eContent Pro’s services come in handy for those wishing to submit their manuscripts to academic journals. The services provided will correct faulty spelling, grammar, punctuation; fix incorrect word usage; ensure consistency in spelling, hyphenation, numerals, fonts, and capitalization; eliminate wordiness and inappropriate jargon; and implement additions and deletions to ensure readability and flow.
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With that in mind, it is not always easy to locate the acceptance rates for academic journals or for some specific disciplines. However, some think it is important information for promotion and tenure activities. There are a few ways to find a journal’s acceptance rates. You can either google the journal’s name, where some societies publish acceptance rates for their specific journals on their homepages. You could also look into Cabell’s Directory for Publishing Opportunities, which is a library subscription database with over 1200 journals, generally focused on Educational Technology, Educational Curriculum, and Educational Psychology, or you could look into the American Psychological Association Journal Acceptance Rates, which provides statistics that include the number of manuscripts received, accepted, and rejected annually (University of Michigan, 2022). If you do not find any information about a journal’s acceptance rates, emailing the journal editor or other involved staff would probably be the best way to get that information. Ulrich’s Periodical Directory will list contact information for a journal’s editorial staff (Virginia Tech, 2022).
However, it is not recommended to simply look at the acceptance rates of journals and pick ones that will likely publish your manuscript. For instance, even though smaller specialty journals have higher acceptance rates, most randomized trials are submitted to the general medical journals because that will help them reach a greater number of people by having a higher impact factor and increasing visibility. Therefore, do not let a high rejection rate dissuade you from sending your manuscript to a journal. With that being said, a specialty journal that may not reach a broader audience may still get to the target audience you seek (Herbert, 2020).
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- Herbert, R. (2020). Accept me, accept me not: What do journal acceptance rates really mean? Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1147&context=scholcom
- University of Michigan. (2022). Research impact metrics: Citation analysis: Finding journal acceptance rates. Research Guides. https://guides.lib.umich.edu/c.php?g=282982&p=3417717
- Virginia Tech. (2022). Journals: Acceptance rates. Research Guides. https://guides.lib.vt.edu/find/journals/acceptance-rates