I would like to submit my manuscript to a journal. Before I do, I would like to reach out to a professor at another university to see if he would be willing to review my manuscript since he is an expert in the field.

Is this appropriate or common practice?

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    I've tried this during my younger days. The professor said yes, and in return he asked to be a co-author for doing very little. – Prof. Santa Claus Sep 18 '19 at 6:07
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    Regardless of it being appropriate or not, your chance that they will agree is basically zero unless you have achieved some truly amazing breakthrough with your study. The scarcest resource for a professor is time. Chances are high that they have several manuscripts from their group on their desk waiting to be reviewed by them right now. – Roland Sep 18 '19 at 7:34
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    Don't you have an advisor? A supervisor of some sort? – paul garrett Sep 18 '19 at 13:53
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    @nick012000 Except in the fields where that's the second most important author – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 18 '19 at 18:35
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    @Buffy I never added him as the co-author. I just thanked him in the Acknowledgment section. That's the last time I approach anyone external for feedback. – Prof. Santa Claus Sep 19 '19 at 1:13

Ask your advisor at your own university, but the answer is 99.9% no. It's your advisor's job to look at your paper before you submit.

In some cases it's appropriate to share with outsiders when they aren't really outsiders but rather collaborators or colleagues known to you or your advisor. In other rare cases you might reach out to someone whose work is very similar or affected by yours, but again, this would be at your advisor's direction.


OP clarified in a comment that their advisor has reviewed their paper and found it suitable, but the paper is outside the advisor's best expertise. In this context, I do think it is worth getting an outside opinion if the advisor agrees, but I still would not suggest cold-contacting anyone.

Instead, I would recommend asking the advisor if someone in their network might have more expertise in the specific area, even if they aren't the very top person in the field. The point is to get an informed opinion from someone friendly but willing to be honest.

Another option is to do some networking at conferences, etc. In that way, you turn people you've never met into people you've met and it may become more appropriate to ask (and certainly more likely to get a positive response).

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    99% is an underestimate IMO. – ZeroTheHero Sep 18 '19 at 3:56
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    Closer to my experience at least. :D – ZeroTheHero Sep 18 '19 at 4:02
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    OP didn't say (s)he has an advisor - what would you suggest if they don't have one? – Allure Sep 18 '19 at 7:00
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    If OP doesn't have an advisor, they're even less likely to get a review. A person outside academia requesting a paper review from a stranger will be interpreted as "crank" (whether fairly or not), and there are no upsides to dealing with a crank. – iayork Sep 18 '19 at 12:10
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    @Allure Then I'd suggest they get an advisor; ditto to everything iayork says. – Bryan Krause Sep 18 '19 at 13:58

I am surprised at all the "no" answers/comments here. This may depend on your field, but in my area (pure mathematics), it is very common to send drafts of papers to experts for feedback/comments regardless of whether or not you know them. (I presume this is what you mean by review, rather than anything more formal.) Now posting papers to the arXiv fills this role of soliciting feedback to some extent, but it is still common to send your paper (often with a link, but sometimes a pdf) to individual people for comments.

That said, often you will not get feedback, but in my experience your chances are much better than 0%. This may be because the other researcher is too busy to look at your paper, or because they don't have any noteworthy feedback. One thing to increase your chance of feedback is to ask a specific question about a point in your paper you think that person may have insight on.

Also, if you do not know the professor, you can preface your email with a sentence introducing yourself (e.g., I am a PhD student of Professor X at StackExchange University), which may increase your chances of getting a reply, particularly if that professor is close to Professor X. If you do have an advisor/mentor, you can also ask them advice for who would be good experts to ask for feedback.

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    +1 You make a great point. As I assume was the case with the people who wrote the other answers and comments, I initially assumed the OP was looking for someone to "pre-referee" their paper. And of course this is very far from being a common practice. But it is very common to send preprints to experts for feedback, provided that you aren't expecting significantly more than a careful-ish reading of the introduction and / or statement of main results, and perhaps a quick skim of the proofs. – user109454 Sep 18 '19 at 16:29
  • Thank you so much for the comments. I have an advisor, but the paper I wrote is not their specialization. I just received a desk rejection for one publication, and want to have someone provide feedback before submitting to another journal, but the advice on whether this is appropriate is mixed. Some folks will tell me that it is perfectly fine to reach out to other academic experts. Others emphatically disagree. – user3424836 Sep 18 '19 at 21:08
  • @user3424836 Maybe things are different in your field. What is your area? – Kimball Sep 18 '19 at 21:09
  • Yes - that could be it. I am in public policy researcher, so it is highly multi-disciplinary – user3424836 Sep 18 '19 at 21:13
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    @user3424836 Your paper may not be in your advisor's specialty, but they can still help you with this. They can help you know if you should send it out to someone else, and who you should send it to, even if it isn't their specialty. They should also review your papers before you submit them even if it isn't in their specialty, that's their job as an advisor. – Bryan Krause Sep 18 '19 at 22:55

Academics are very busy people, so it is highly unlikely that this professor will agree to a review outside of the journal process. Ordinarily, a preliminary review would be done by your supervisor or a colleague that does not mind taking the time to help you, and after that you would submit to the formal review process for the journal you submit to. Bear in mind that you can often suggest reviewers to the journal during the submission process (either in the online form, or just in the body of your letter to the editor), so if you think this professor would be a good reviewer, that may be an avenue to get a review from him.

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    Plus one for mentioning the possibility of suggesting a referee. General note: a good strategy seems to not suggest too many – Alchimista Sep 18 '19 at 10:16

Making a polite and humble request, with proper introduction of yourself and giving the possibility to say a gentle "no", is by all means appropriate. I have a been in this situation, and my experience says, 99.9 % of the time its a no reply and occasionally you may get a "interesting but not close enough to my area", or "Sorry I am occupied with too many other things now". You can mail it anyway, nothing wrong. (Also add to arxiv.org and share a link to professors rather than sending a pdf).

My suggestion is, review it yourself many times, put yourself in the place of a reviewer and make judgements and estimate short falls. Iteratively improve presentation and polish it many times. (this could include adding redundancy to give more clarity on central ideas or contributions, including references(that you were not aware of when you first wrote the manuscript) to earlier works and giving comparaitve statements (these are the ones reviewers request almost all the time), extending your work, or writing about its applications that you come across while reviewing, and so on...).

When you have done these things repeatedly over a few spells, start looking at journal to which your paper matches the best (in terms of scope and subject matter and nothing else) and submit. You will get a thorough an professional feedback. Use it to improve and submit it to else where and repeat till its published. Meanwhile you can add it to arxiv.org to get visibility.

PS : Do not submit to very high on prestige journals. Also do not take turn around time into consideration while selecting journals. Select solely based on scope and subject matter.


I'm also surprised at the feedback. I think what the original poster is getting at here, is that having several "well-known experts in the same field" perform a review of the paper is a requirement for submission to the publication. This is something my wife has run up against on papers she has submitted, and while I don't know about "Academics", researchers and well known scientists are familiar with this process. Generally, they will ask you to perform the same service for them in the future on their potential submissions to the same or other journals.

That's not to say that they "must" agree, or perform the review when you ask, but you should definitely come up with a variety of potential reviewers, and use the law of averages to your advantage. The earlier advice of having your supervisor or the principal investigator solicit reviews on your behalf is also good advice. This will become less of an issue as you become established and recognized in the field, but initially it's a challenge. Make sure to give a good overview of your research, the people involved, and the institution(s) sponsoring the research, so that whomever you contact understands this is not some fly-by-night effort for a complete stranger to get recognition they don't deserve...After all, in essence, you're asking a complete stranger to vouch for your work using their good name and credentials.

Peer reviews are important, but as a new entrant into a field, it can be very challenging to get the ball rolling.

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    Is it possible that you're confusing the process that normally follows submission to a journal (you say "This is something my wife has run up against on papers she has submitted") as opposed to before submission to a journal? If it is pre-submission, could you mention the field? – iayork Sep 18 '19 at 17:15
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    Yes, "Peer reviews are important", and most academics routinely perform them. But they occur after submission, and are arranged by the journal, not the author (although really, journals might ask for suggested reviewer names). So this is a very different process than what the OP is asking about (outside review before submission), which would be very unusual in most fields. – Michael MacAskill Sep 18 '19 at 22:14
  • @iayork She's a Computer Scientist writing modelling and data handling software for Environmental Sciences. She has been working on submitting a paper to an Environmental Sciences journal, I believe, although I don't know the name of the journal. Part of the submission process is to include the review from respected researchers in the same field, including their contact information. She has only a few papers thus far, but has had this trouble on at least one other submission. – Herald Storm Sep 19 '19 at 18:12

Is this appropriate or common practice?

Appropriate, yes; common - I don't know, but I've done it. And with a monograph even, not just a journal paper...

I'd make it at least a two-phase process, i.e. don't start out by making the full request and linking to the paper, but rather make it a more fuzzy request; also, try to make it seem like it should be interesting for him as well, e.g. by relating your work to his.

Of course - it is always better if you can approach him in person at a conference, or if you have a common acquaintance you could ask for advice on this.

PS - It being appropriate does not mean that he will say yes :-(

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