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I submitted a paper to an Elsevier journal which is now in 'Submitted to Journal status'. Now I want to remove it to improve the write up, though the content is good. I don't want it to be rejected after waiting for 7 months which would be a lot of time wasted. I would rather remove it now and improve it myself or with the help of editing services. Should I email editor to remove it? I am worried because the reasons for withdrawals mentioned on their website are serious and I don't want to give that impression when my reasons is just to improve the manuscript.

When you feel your paper does not have high chances to get accepted, do you keep on working on it during the review and re-submit to a different journal when it gets rejected eventually? Or remove it immediately, work on it and submit again.

  • What did the editor at the journal say when you discussed it with them? (They're the experts, after all.) – EnergyNumbers Nov 19 '13 at 12:08
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“When you feel your paper do not have high chances to get accepted”… then I suggest you don't submit it for publication in the first place!

It has happened that I have submitted a work which I continued to work on improving, but it was definitely in some very specific cases, where

  1. the improvement in question was nice but absolutely not crucial to the paper,
  2. had no impact an any of the conclusions of the paper,
  3. I was not sure the improvement would actually work.

Basically, something like submitting the paper while continuing to tinker on Figure 2, thinking without adding or removing any data there might be a better way to present it, but it required getting a new software license and learning how to use it. Or submitting a paper while thinking that “hey, this is totally publishable, but if I continue running the simulation while the paper is submitted, maybe I can get the curve on Figure 3 with a little bit less noise”. But nothing as extensive as changing the text.


What should you do now? — Well, if you think reworking on the paper can in a significant way improve its chances of being accepted, I suggest you withdraw it from consideration. If you submitted not too long ago, the editor and referees might not even have wasted much time on it yet. So write to the editor, apologetically explaining that you've realized you made a mistake in submitting your paper too early, and would like to withdraw it. It's not a very nice thing to do, but I still believe it's in your interest.

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Just to check: the changes you want to make don't affect the results of the paper, you just want to write it more clearly?

If the paper has already been under review for 7 months, they at least think it's good enough not to reject immediately, and the referee(s) have probably spent a fair amount of time looking at it. If you withdraw it now, you will have to start the whole process over when you resubmit.

I would probably do one of two things:

  • Wait until you get a decision from the journal. There's a good chance the decision will be "accept with revisions". Then you can include your changes along with those suggested by the referee. Include a list of all the changes you made, so that the referee knows what to look at. Of course, if it's rejected, then you can make your changes before submitting to a new journal.

  • Make your changes now, and quickly. Then contact the editor, saying something like: "Upon rereading the manuscript, I think its clarity would be improved by changing such and such. Would you be willing to consider this updated submission, and pass it along to the referees?" Again, include a list of the changes you have made.

In either case, it would help to minimize the amount you change: revise what you have to, but don't gratuitously make changes that aren't really necessary.

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