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I'm pursuing my PhD (fourth year). My institute has the following rule:

At least Two SCI papers is mandatory for awarding doctorate degree.

I tried for publishing an SCI paper recently and got rejection. Two reviewers provided comments, given below in concise manner, for rejection

  1. Language is not good;

  2. Proposed method is just a composition of couple of existing methods;

I am undergoing panic since I am in pre-final year of my doctorate degree.

But, I keep on asking colleagues and other friends in my academic network how to handle the situation and I categorized their suggestions in to two categories:

  1. Majority of the people are saying that it is totally or mostly up to the mindset of the reviewer(s). The selection of journal is wrong according to them. They are saying that I need to search for the new journal, accepting such papers, by improving the language alone. If I keep on trying like that, one day I will get acceptance.

  2. One person is saying that since the core of the proposed method cannot be improved and the language alone can be improved. It is better to drop the idea of sending to multiple journals and need to try for totally new technique or method and developing a new paper and then sending it for review.

None of the the people giving advice has published in an SCI journal. They are just giving me a guidance.

Is it true that reviewer's mindset play a role? Is the guidance to resubmit the same paper (with improved language) to a different journal a good idea?

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    I don't really understand what you mean by "reviewer's mindset".
    – henning
    Apr 30 at 17:12
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    By "SCI paper" you mean a paper in a journal indexed by SCI? Your advisor doesn't even have a single SCI-indexed paper, nor do any of the other possible mentors around you? That seems quite bad, I don't know why anyone would get a PhD through an advisor without a reasonable publication record. In any event, this is far too specialized a question to ask as far as what to do next about your individual research project. You need a mentor close to you to help with this, Academia.SE won't be a suitable substitute.
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 30 at 17:19
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    The comment 'composition of existing methods' is the most critical aspect. This means you have not convinced reviewers that your method is new. It is not about mindset. Ask yourself, what is new in your paper? Fusing a bunch of methods together is not sufficient. You need to show that your assembly/method is new. Apr 30 at 22:12
  • 2
    "low-quality publications such as [...] Scopus journals" I didn't know Scopus-indexed journals were low quality. May 1 at 2:06
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    Wait, neither your advisor, nor any of your mentors have a publication in a journal indexed by SCI, yet it is a requirement to obtain a PhD!?
    – Aditya
    May 1 at 6:46
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Is it true that reviewer's mindset play a role?

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "reviewer's mindset." The reviewer is just trying to decide whether your article is more worthy of being published than other articles that have been submitted. It is true that the process is a bit random; submitting the same paper to an equivalent journal might yield nicer reviewers who make a different decision. But this is unlikely: if a paper is rejected from one journal, it usually means that the paper either needs to be improved, or it needs to be submitted to a less selective journal (or both).

Is the guidance to resubmit the same paper (with improved language) to a different journal a good idea?

Impossible to say without reading the paper, but resubmitting the same paper to a less selective or more relevant journal could indeed change the decision. But you should also consider whether it's possible to improve the paper.

Language is not good

This is a very common problem. As a reviewer, I am shocked by the quality of the writing that established groups submit to reputable publishers. These problems range from basic English mechanics (understandable for non-native speakers, but still needs to be fixed) to basic manuscript construction problems (poor organization, haphazard presentation of background and method, ambiguous results with unclear figures, etc.)

Many students really learn how to write by iterating with their advisors 30+ times. This is a crucial skill; if your advisor is not helping you write up your results so that they are publishable, you may need to consider finding other sources for this guidance, and be prepared to completely rework the paper.

Proposed method is just a composition of couple of existing methods

If this is true, it means that your paper is not very exciting; you combined some existing methods and got some unsurprising results. There is nothing wrong with this per se, but you will indeed need to select a less selective journal; top journals will prioritize more novel approaches with more exciting results.

Another possibility is that your paper is exciting, but it's written so poorly that the interesting bit is buried and your reviewers didn't understand the key point. If this is the case, revising the paper could address this objection.

I am not getting a constructive guidance from mentor. And I am in an environment that none of the persons around me has an SCI journal till now including my mentor.

I think this is the real problem. Normally I would say that your advisor knows what to do, you just need to communicate better with them. But you say your advisor is themselves unable to publish in these journals (which is all the more confusing; how can your university expect their PhD students to achieve what their faculty cannot)? I'm afraid I do not have the solution, but I am concerned for you. Good luck.

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I recognize the panic. Especially when pursuing your PhD. It may feel that too much depends on getting your work published.

I have had similar experiences and still got my work published. You will have to try again, and again. There are constructive editors and reviewers out there but it takes some time and effort to find them.

Publishing is to some extent a lottery and subject to many biases. I hate to say it but you may want to consider asking an established professor or researcher to join you as co-author (and improve your paper). A mentor who does not publish and does not have a reputation is not helpful.

Also get assistance with your language. I had reviewers who called work ‘sloppy’ because of 2 typo’s in 10.000 words. This was just nasty.

Look for SCI journals with lower rankings. MDPI does not have the best reputation but they are known to be less picky and more inclusive.

And do not panic. Writing publications is a skill to be learned and needs perseverance. Put yourself together and continue. This is what a PhD is about and most of us had similar experiences. We just do not talk about it openly because it feels like a personal failure. There is shame in talking about work being rejected. You are for sure not alone in this.

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