Suppose one submits a paper to a journal which gets rejected for reasons unrelated to correctness.

Say the paper can be though of as having 2 parts: A and B. If one eliminates part A and adds a new part C, and re-structures part B significantly, is it a "new submission?"

So it is really a question: when does A+B not equal B''+C? Assume that the original plainly stated B as the goal and the new paper plainly states C as the goal.

My specific field is math (probability theory, stochastic processes), but I think the question might be answered similarly for any field.

My specific situation is that the editors declined to send the paper for review apparently due to style and uncertainty about if the paper has anything (sufficiently) novel (probably again hard to recognize due to "style"). Comments were effectively: "it seems correct, but I don't know what is novel here, and I don't understand what these parts mean."

For me, part B was really the goal and part A was necessary to establish it. I found a way to eliminate part A, and I added part C (which was truly my original goal, but just made the original paper way too long). Also part B is now going to look significantly different and more efficient.

I know that a careful editor might notice that there are some parts that did appear in a previous submission (depending on how carefully they read the original), but should obviously notice the new parts. And I know that it is risky to resubmit to the same journal, even with significant changes, especially for an author with low prestige/status.

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    This sounds like an XY problem to me. You first set the stage by mentioning rejection of a submission and ask when a new submission is a new submission. Whenever a paper gets rejected it falls out of the editorial loop. So even if you resubmit without changing a single character - that's a new submission. Period. But then you describe what appears to me a try to resubmit a paper after substantial editing, but hoping that the editor won't notice (why?). If you actually made significant improvements, and you intend to resubmit to the same journal, just mention in the comments to the editor (...)
    – user132477
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 16:33
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    @corey979 The point is that you can't just resubmit a rejected paper to the same journal, even if you've made improvements. They will just reject it out of hand with a (probably more polite version of) "we already rejected this, stop bugging us". So the question of at what point it becomes a "new" paper, and possible to submit to the original journal without this happening, is germane. Commented May 5, 2023 at 16:39
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    @EspeciallyLime It looks it depends on the field, then. In mine (kinda close to math, and I don't think the customs are that much different) it wouldn't be frowned upon.
    – user132477
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 16:57
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    I'm fairly certain, that in math, it is not acceptable to re-submitted an edited version unless invited to do so. So it is important that it is to be seen as a "new paper." In math, it's not ideal to use results from a non-peer reviewed work, especially if from a low-status academic. Sure, I could reference a personal communication or unpublished work of someone held in high esteem!
    – jdods
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 18:55
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    The answer to your question is entirely subjective and irrelevant to the problem at hand, which is really: will this particular editor be willing to treat this as a new manuscript? This is not a question anyone here can answer. Just clearly and concisely explain the situation to the editor and let them do their job, which in this case consists of making an editorial decision one way or the other. That's literally the only thing you can do here (if you insist on submitting to the same journal). Commented May 6, 2023 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


"Difference" is obviously a continuous variable (continuous in the practical common-language sense) and "otherness" is an emerging property. In other words, "otherness" is inherently fuzzy and no exact definition can be given. A legal system would take refuge in the opinion of an archetypical, well-meaning expert in the field.

Now, in your case, let me take the role of the legal system expert and state that there is clearly enough difference between the two submissions to make them different.

In a practical sense: (1) Make sure someone else has read your paper to make sure that it is understandable and that the introduction explains what is new. This advice is not so obvious. As authors, we are (almost) all selectively blind and readability is not something we are good at evaluating in our own papers. I am directing this advice just as much to me as to you.

(2) Consider laying out the case to the editor, starting with a Mea Culpa and explaining why this is a different submission. This would depend on what the editor exactly said. Editors are working in the field and might or might not be willing to forgive someone for submitting an unnecessarily difficult to read paper depending on whether they remember that they also were foolish on occasion.

  • Also, if possible, submit to a different journal, then, new editor! Commented May 5, 2023 at 18:16

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