I submitted a paper to a journal three months ago and was told that the review process could take up to three months but that they aimed to do it faster.

Since I haven't heard back within the quoted timeline, would it be appropriate to contact them and ask how the process is going?

On one hand, I could see that they may be very busy and have received more submissions than they anticipated.

However, I also wonder about the possibility that something has slipped through the cracks - like perhaps the review is over and they lost my contact info or something.

What's the appropriate action to take?

The journal is free to submit to, free to read, so I know that folks aren't getting paid, which makes it harder to expect the timeline to be met, but I'd still like to make sure things are on track.


4 Answers 4


As a sometime-editor, I wouldn't be offended by such an email. Not happy, but not offended. I'd say go ahead and email.

(My first editing stint significantly increased how fast I turn around peer reviews...)


If the three months have passed (and you've waited for the next working day to pass) then you should contact the editor and see what the status is. Depending on the status of your submission, you could still be waiting for an editor to be assigned, or they could be waiting for reviewers to accept the task, or best-case scenario the reviewers just need a little more time to finish writing up their comments. Many large journals have a system online where you can check the status of your submission, so check that first if available.

If an editor is especially busy, your submission may not be a top priority. You might have to wait much longer than the initial estimate. So, a gentle reminder/query about your paper is a good idea so that it gets the attention it deserves. Keep in mind though, the people involved in the peer-review process are basically volunteers, so if you have to voice any type of complaint (e.g. if you aren't getting responses from the editor) then you should contact the editorial support staff (who are paid employees). After all, you are paying for them to publish your paper!

  • Thanks! Btw Its a free to submit/free to read journal so I'm not paying anybody. I definitely don't want to complain, but just want to see where it's at if I'm able :p
    – Alan Wolfe
    Nov 28, 2015 at 3:29
  • Good Luck! I just meant that if you don't get responses from the editor, the support staff should be able to help.
    – f.thorpe
    Nov 28, 2015 at 3:31

To add one more aspect to the existing good answers:

A few years ago a well known journal (in its field) had accepted our paper for publication. Several month later we were wondering where it was, and wrote to them. It turned out it was lost somehow on its way to publishing. So do not exclude human error in the presumably busy life at a journal.


The following are the factors that you ought to be aware of before you send a reminder. The factor might differ from one reviewer to another.

  • Journal reviews do take much longer time in charges-free journals.
  • Most journal reviewers do their reviews altruistically -- they do not get paid to review your manuscripts.
  • Some manuscripts might have priority over others.
  • Sometimes the reviewer for your research area might not be available in time.

Apart from the above, also bear in mind that ethical standards usually forbid you to submit your manuscript to any other journal publication while the current submission is under review. A gentle reminder is advisable if you have your own time constraints.

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