I had submitted my first manuscript to my supervisor in 2013. He checked it after one year and finally submit it to a journal in Jan 2015. After one major revision, it got accepted with a minor revision and due date was 30th June, 2015. I modified and corrected the manuscript. But my supervisor was so busy that he could not make a final check and could not submit it in due time. I reminded and requested many times to check and submit it at the earliest in his free time, but my supervisor always says that "Sorry, I am busy and wait until my check." Editor had also reminded couple of times and finally closed the file. One day my supervisor told me that we need to withdraw this paper, because it is too late. I got shocked. So my supervisor might had felt bad for his delay, so he withdrew it and submitted to another journal in the same day of Mar, 2016 without any check. Fortunately the manuscript got accepted with a minor revision with a due date as 29th July, 2016. I corrected accordingly and sent it to my supervisor. But again seems same situation that yet he has not submitted.

During this period, I was ready with another manuscript. When I requested him to submit that, he advised me to submit by my own to XYZ journal as he is very busy. I felt very happy and submit it to his recommended journal in Mar 2016. This manuscripts came with a major revision after 2 months. So I revised the manuscript and submitted in due time by my own and informed to my supervisor. Fortunately, this manuscript also got accepted with a minor revision and due date was 28th Oct 2016. I modified everything and supposed to submit by my own. But my supervisor told that he will check at least once before final submission. So I could not submit it by my own and still waiting for my supervisor's check.

So I am very much worried what to do in this situation. I have written and reminded many times. But as usual I always get a sorry reply. I am really worried how to write an effective but very gentle reminder email to him to check the Manuscript? I can't complain and be hard to break his faith on me.

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    I would have stopped being gentle with this person a long time ago. Needing one year to check the manuscript of a grad student is ridiculous and indicates that they don't have the appropriate priorities to act as your supervisor. Not doing a minor revision after repeated reminders by the editor is even worse.
    – user9482
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 13:45
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    A professor's view on this question: longwoodgenomics.org/2016/09/28/… Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:19
  • How about "RTFM" (where the "F" stands for "Fine") Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 21:57
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    @MichaelHoffman That post is missing an action that the PI can do with extremely little time requirements: Tell the student that the manuscript is in category C or D. Letting it "languish on [the] computer for months" doesn't help anyone. However, I can't imagine someone not doing a quick read to approve a minor revision. Nowadays their publication record is important for every academic and a minor revision means a guaranteed publication.
    – user9482
    Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 7:21

6 Answers 6


I will just write how I approach the matter with very busy supervisors until now. It has worked without issues and our relationships has not been impacted at all.

The best thing is to take responsibility of the submission process (if you haven't done that already). When you have either the manuscript ready to submit or after you have done the corrections on the reviewers' comments, you can send an e-mail to your supervisor telling him/her that you have done all the corrections and answered to the reviewers (if applicable) and you are ready to submit.

Put a deadline for the submission (not the journal deadline, but yours) and ask him to send his comments, if any, by then. You are planning to submit it on that day, unless you have his comments that require big changes.

Also ask him if he needs to change the deadline, then he can propose a new one. But don't leave it without a deadline, as it could go forever.

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    I do like the idea of establishing a timeline, though.... perhaps setting up a two-hour meeting to hash the whole paper out would force this to a conclusion. Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 17:24
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    @T.Verron I don't agree that it breaks the rule. You give the chance to the advisor to read it within the deadline, and you give him the chance to set another deadline that fits his schedule. No comments on any of the two deadlines automatically assumes approval, as this is what you have agreed by setting the deadline. Of course, he could decide not to cooperate and say "I don't want a deadline", but since he feels sorry every time, I think he will accept the "terms".
    – BioGeo
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 18:21
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    @ScottSeidman I never had a problem with the editorial board with me (as the first author) being the corresponding author. Besides, all co-authors have to approve the version of the manuscript. The "solution" I propose allows a better collaboration and in all cases I had to "use" it, it ended with the mentor following the deadline. In the worst case, it could be an email, "it's ok. send it"
    – BioGeo
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 18:31
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    For this whole discussion, it seems implicit that the mentor does NOT want the paper to be submitted before he reviews it. I think clicking any box that says "I agree that all authors yada yada yada" wouldn't be wise, and could cause conflict, possibly reaching all the way to the editor. Interpreting a non response as "I believe you're OK with me submitting this" when every communication has said it's not is quite disingenuous. Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 18:36
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    @ScottSeidman What I proposed is supposed to organise things and make the communication more efficient. With busy professors it's good to be precise on what you need them to review and provide feedback. Of course it also depends on the field and your level (Master student, PhD student, post doc). But it's not meant to bypass them and trick them to accept something against their will. It puts some rules in the communication and adds some pressure on the responsibility the mentor has for his student. It also doesn't solve the personal problems the professor might have or if he hates his work.
    – BioGeo
    Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 20:25

"Dr. X:

Your inattention to this matter is impacting my career. Can we please submit this paper?

Thank you"

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    If you start writing these sorts of e-mails, you'll never stop... Commented Dec 6, 2016 at 12:42

Sounds like the problem goes much deeper than finding the right wording for a reminder email. Maybe his priorities and time management are a disaster. Maybe he is repelled by your work or presentation style and postponing repeatedly is his way of avoiding an awkward conversation. Maybe you annoyed him in the past so he ignores you now. Maybe you ignored things that he communicated in the past. Maybe he has problems in his private life. Either way, something unprofessional is going on. Your situation would never occur with a well-organized supervisor who is excited about your topic and presentation style.


Contact your department chair and tell them about your advisor’s behaviour, and ask if they could get him to prioritise his time so that it doesn't negatively impact your career.


Full-on passive/aggressive option:

Ask a specific question, about a specific paragraph. You may already know the answer, but that's not the point. The point is you have a specific call to action that is more obvious than, "Read a boring manuscript", and that more clearly needs a response sooner than later. Nevertheless, reading the boring manuscript is still the only way to answer the question.



I'm wondering if you had the oportunity to read the minor revision I made on the paper I sent you last month.



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    This sounds exactly like the sorts of emails the OP has already been sending, and doesn't offer any argument for why this should be any more effective than the rest have been. Commented Dec 7, 2016 at 2:58

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