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I submitted to a journal, in which I got a minor revision. In the minor revision, I was asked to do nothing other than to include a future research direction in the end after the conclusion. I submitted with the minor revision two days ago and today, I got a mail saying that a major revision is suggested.

The mail reads as follows:

Thanks for submitting your paper to this special issue. Please add a section after introduction for literature review. The current quality of paper is not sufficient to publish on the journal. Please include most recent literature as well. You will need to state the research motivation at the beginning and conclude the research questions in the end.

Now, I am not asked to do anything regarding the analysis part or anything. I already have stated the research questions in the manuscript. I also don't understand what it means, "current quality is not sufficient."

Is this usual? Any advice on how to deal this?

Update: My paper got accepted. Woah..!

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    "Any advice on how to deal this?" Option 1: Follow the instructions and try to improve the quality of your manuscript. Option 2: Withdraw. We can't tell you which option is preferable for you. – Roland Sep 10 '20 at 6:00
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    Have you talked to your supervisor or the other authors on the paper? – astronat Sep 10 '20 at 7:55
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    I don't think this should be closed - this would be highly unusual in my field, enough that I would question whether an error was made. – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 11 '20 at 15:57
  • (Especially because it was not returned to reviewers in two days). – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 11 '20 at 16:03
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    This appears to me to be an editorial screening, but it reads like you do not have any literature review in your paper. If this is a full report from a peer-review, I am raising an eyebrow. – Oleg Lobachev Sep 13 '20 at 16:02
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In my field, biomedical science, it is highly unusual to hear back from a peer-reviewed journal within 2 days of resubmission. I would recommend double-checking whether the journal is a peer-reviewed journal and whether the papers published in this journal provide a significant contribution to your field. It is important to always check that as there are multiple predatory journals out there. As Roland said, you have two options. Certainly, you should always consult with your supervisor prior to any action. Another point I would like to add is that usually when the reviewer finds issues regarding the quality of the manuscript, the reviewer will point out the specific issues in order to clarify where the authors have to work on before resubmission. It is very strange that you did not receive a detailed review. As for the change from minor to major revision, that can happen. Particularly because not always the same reviewer will be available to review all versions of a manuscript, so in some cases, your manuscript may be sent out to a different reviewer after resubmission.

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    It would be weird, though, for a predatory journal to ask for more revisions. Usually they would just accept – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 13 '20 at 19:00
  • Well, I checked and it is a peer-reviewed journal and is also indexed in Social science citation Index and in Web of Science. Since my article is about Covid, I got a quick reply. – Coventry Jan 11 at 22:36
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This entire situation is strange:

  • to start with: you submit a paper that apparently lacks a good introduction with motivation for the research, a conclusion, and references
  • the reviewers did not notice the lack of references, a big and obvious problem with the paper (but hopefully easy to solve)
  • the reviewers did not comment on the lack of presence of a motivation for the research and the apparent missing conclusion, another problem that should be immediately obvious
  • although directions for future research are sometimes added to a paper, any paper should be publishable without this being present, and I have never seen reviewers or editors ask for those
  • the minor revisions being changed into major revisions is uncommon, but given the seemingly poor quality of the reviews it is understandable if the editor read the paper afterwards

The papers I have reviewed myself that lack the basics such a motivation, conclusion and references always had many other problems and I have always had to recommend rejection for those other problems. I hope that your paper is not one of those.

Taken together it seems to me that the reviewers are inexperienced and the editor did his best to give you valuable feedback to improve the paper. From what you tell us yourself, it does indeed sound like your paper needs major revisions.

To proceed, I would suggest to:

  1. Make sure that the journal is sufficiently good for your paper (normally you have done this already before submission). Also see the answer by Ray.

  2. Revise your paper by adding or improving the introduction and conclusion, and adding the relevant references. This is a lot of work so hopefully it is possible to do within the timeframe given to you by the journal to carry out these major revisions.

  3. I would not include any suggestions for future work unless I actually had some and wished to disclose them before doing the research.

  4. Do not see the change to "major revisions" as unreasonable, but learn from the suggestions you got and remember them for your next paper.

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