I am writing a paper that centers on Quantum Information Theory, approached using Graph Theory. This approach has parallels to Matrix Theory, but it is very different from all existing Graph Theoretical approaches to this topic. We have submitted two papers to journals: 1) Physics Reviews and 2) Electronic Journal of Combinatorics, but both of them are rejected. We suspect that reviewers did not understand that our approach is not trivial.

My questions:

  1. How should we present our method so that the reviewers can see its worth and see that it is not trivial?

  2. How can we establish the parallel to Matrix Theory, but at the same time differentiate our approach and convey it's contribution to research?

  • 3
    Thanks for asking this question, but it is not written very well. I do advise you to work on your writing skills in English. I know you are in a very technical field, but good writing skills can only improve your chances of getting papers accepted in high quality journals. Apr 8, 2015 at 10:43

3 Answers 3


Getting into the details would be too technical for this site, but my suggestion is spell it out explicitly.

If this issue is a concern for your readers and for the referees, there should be a section in your paper titled Why is this nontrivial? (maybe just after the introduction) where you argue on why your approach is relevant. If you can, include an example where it is apparent that your approach is more simple or more insightful.

Don't be afraid to toot your own horn.


The reviewers may not have understood why your approach is new or worthy. But that is not the reviewers fault, it is your failure to explain it well: if the reviewers don't understand it, other readers won't either.

So go back to the reviews, analyze them for what they said and why they could have been mistaken, and change your paper accordingly. If they don't see why your approach is new, spend the time in the introduction to explain why it is new and how it differs from existing approaches. If the reviewers complain that they don't see why taking a different approach is worthwhile because the result is the same, spend the time in the introduction or conclusions to explain what you think can be done with your approach that could not be done before.

In other words, use the reviews as a positive strategy to see how others read your paper, rather than getting mad at the reviewers.

  • "But that is not the reviewers fault, it is your failure to explain it well: if the reviewers don't understand it, other readers won't either." Sadly, this is used as a general explanation to cover not only insufficiently clearly written papers, but sloppy reviews as well. This is particularly the case when it is clear from the reviewer's comments that they haven't even properly read the paper they are supposed to review. I've recently had the experience where almost all of one reviewer's comments could be answered with a simple "Please reread section x.y". (1/2) Apr 8, 2015 at 12:02
  • I didn't bother wasting time with a rebuttal, but I did email the editor pointing out the sloppy work of that particular reviewer and resubmitted the paper to another journal (where it was accepted). (2/2) Apr 8, 2015 at 12:03
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    That happens so much more rarely than getting reasonable comments from reviewers that I don't think it serves well as a general guideline. Besides, readers oftentimes don't read papers carefully either -- so if a careless reading makes a reviewer miss important information, then normal readers would as well. I.e., the reviewer comments are still useful, if maybe not fair. Apr 8, 2015 at 16:16
  • Indeed, fortunately, it is not common and the vast majority of reviewers is constructive. But, people who get constructive reviews, even if they are negative, don't (generally) complain that they are being treated unfairly. And in those cases the occurrence of sloppy reviews is not negligible. Readers also don't decide whether a paper gets published, so the responsibility is far lesser than that of a reviewer. Look at it this way, a paper may get dozens of views, but very little, if any, citations. A sloppy review prevented those citations, while sloppy reading, well, harmed only the reader. Apr 9, 2015 at 6:23

First, did you receive feedback from reviewers of your two rejected articles? Most journals provide reviewer comments for articles they reject. If you did receive feedback, you should seek to understand all of their objections and suggestions (if any).

Second, if your Graph Theoretic approach is truly unique and adds value over Matrix Theory (and other existing approaches), then it is up to you to make this explicit in your Introduction and Method sections. (As Frederico advised) What are the advantages and limitations of the Matrix Theory approach? How does your Graph Theoretic method overcome these limitations? What new does it add?

Third, you might have to admit that you are wrong -- that your Graph Theoretic approach is not sufficiently different from Matrix Theory or similar. Please do consider this alternative before you proceed. The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate the uniqueness and added value. If you can't articulate it clearly and simply, then maybe it isn't there.

I suggest that you rewrite your paper with these goals in mind. And then, before you submit it another journal, you send it to two or three colleagues who will be skeptical and critical of everything you write. You want people who are willing to pick apart every sentence, every equation, every diagram, every reference. Only after you go through one or two review cycles with these colleagues should you submit to a journal again.

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