My paper was rejected from a journal. However, remarks of one of the reviewers were useful, and I incorporated them into the next version of the paper.

Is there a general pattern of acknowledging such contribution (in the Acknowledgement section)?

Or should I leave it, not to advertise information that the paper was rejected from a particular journal?

(As a side note, this paper was rejected two times, each time with one positive review, and one of type "OK, but I think it is not of general interest".)


In my case (as in general in my field) reviewers were anonymous. (Otherwise I would just use their names.)

And in my case the helpful comments were in positive reviews (but I doubt whether it changes anything).

  • Is it the case that you are wanting to mention the specific part of your paper that arose from the earlier reviewer's remarks (rather than a more general acknowledgement as suggested in Peter Jansson's answer)?
    – Tara B
    Mar 10, 2013 at 22:06
  • @TaraB Mostly small fixes (grammar, typos, small changes), distributed among whole paper. Mar 10, 2013 at 22:10
  • 1
    Ah. I don't think it is really necessary to mention that. It's helpful, but not something that made a major improvement to the paper. Have you considered simply asking the journal editor to pass your thanks on directly to the reviewer?
    – Tara B
    Mar 10, 2013 at 22:14
  • 2
    @TaraB I always try to thank reviewers (and especially when they understood it... or didn't but it is visible that they were trying), so most likely I sent a message to editor. Mar 10, 2013 at 22:20
  • Right, then I really think that should be sufficient in this case, especially given the difficulty of making it clear you are thanking a reviewer from a different journal while not mentioning any names or the fact the paper was rejected!
    – Tara B
    Mar 10, 2013 at 22:23

4 Answers 4


Piotr has asked that I add one of my comments as an answer. Please note that I am a fairly inexperienced academic, so don't take anything I say too seriously!

Firstly, I'll reiterate one of my comments on Peter Jansson's answer:

You really really should not mention journal names or the fact that the paper was previously rejected. The journal you are publishing in would not appreciate it! (It makes it clear they were only your second, or in this case third, choice.)

Since you say that the helpful remarks of the earlier reviewer were about grammar, typos and a few small changes throughout the document rather than something that substantially changed the exposition of your paper, I think that conveying your thanks directly to the reviewer via the journal's editor (which you say you have already done) is probably a more appropriate acknowledgment, especially given the difficulty of making it clear you are thanking a reviewer from a different journal while not mentioning any names or the fact that the paper was rejected.

  • 3
    Conveying thanks through the editor is a fantastic idea, but not as a substitute for acknowledging the reviewer in the paper. It never hurts to say thank you in public, even if you're doing so anonymously.
    – JeffE
    Mar 11, 2013 at 2:50
  • 1
    @JeffE I know that it never hurts (it is why I asked this question!), but I don't know how to attribute the right person - even if anonymous, then not from another journal (misattribution is, IMHO, worse than lack of it). Mar 11, 2013 at 11:06
  • I think what makes the difference is that the reviewer is anonymous. If you had a name to acknowledge, that is great. But it becomes difficult and there is dubious benefits to acknowledging an anonymous person anyways.
    – Jonathon
    Aug 18, 2015 at 21:52

First, I think it is good to acknowledge reviewers as you consider doing. It is the editor who rejects any papers based on the results of reviews so the reviews may still be very constructive and indeed helpful in improving a paper. So I would suggest something like the following

We/I (gratefully) acknowledge the (critical) review by X on an earlier version of the manuscript.

There are many ways to express it and what words you wish to use is up to you and the way you wish to express your gratitude. I would not add the name of the journal(s) where the reviews were conducted (other than in the letter to the journal editor accompanying your MS submission).

I also would like to take the opportunity to add that the following issue, not that it applies to your case but more to point out some bad practices for the community. The poor behavior concerns when someone acknowledges a famous persons review just to gain leverage in resubmitting it to another journal. I have seen how persons have used reviews stating that the paper should be rejected because it is "crap" as a "most valuable input to help improve the manuscript". Since no-one typically knows what this review did, the gut reaction is to think it must have been valuable since the reviewer is well known. For this reason it is good to provide the review/revisions from the old MS when re-submitting it so that the review-revision work becomes obvious to the editor.

As a final point, I would not add the acknowledgement of any reviewers new or old until the time when your MS has been (hopefully) accepted in the new journal.

EDIT: Based on the good comments by Tara B on anonymous reviewers and how to distinguish reviews from old and new MS I would write something as the following

We/I (gratefully) acknowledge the (critical) review by two anonymous reviewers as well as the (critical) review by another anonymous reviewer on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Words in parenthesis are optional and can be exchanged for others that better suit your needs.

  • 6
    At least in my subject (maths), the reviews are supposed to be anonymous, so one would not be able to acknowledge the reviewer by name.
    – Tara B
    Mar 10, 2013 at 21:43
  • 1
    Good point, this varies slightly but in teh case of an anonymous reviewer, I would simply say "an anonymous reviewer" instead of the name. Mar 10, 2013 at 21:45
  • 2
    I suppose the difficulty is that unless mentioned otherwise, it will be assumed that the anonymous reviewer was one of the reviewers for the paper the journal eventually appeared in. I don't see a good way to mention otherwise, however.
    – Tara B
    Mar 10, 2013 at 21:48
  • 3
    @PiotrMigdal I think some form of the second example I have given will do. Unless you need to explain your paper has been rejected in the past calling it an "earlier manuscript" should do. You are acknowledgiing the reviewer not the journal that rejected it. The exception would be if the editor of a journal that rejected your paper also provided something you wish to acknowledge. But as a whole I do not see the point of providing details such as earlier journals in the acknowledgement. Mar 10, 2013 at 22:08
  • 3
    You really really should not mention journal names or the fact that the paper was previously rejected. The journal you are publishing in would not appreciate it! (It makes it clear they were only your second, or in this case third, choice.)
    – Tara B
    Mar 10, 2013 at 22:17

I have been waiting for a chance to pull a prank like

I would like to thank 15 anonymous referees from 5 journals to which this paper was submitted for their helpful comments.

but, as many people said, few journals will appreciate this sort of remark. It is true that this is what happens with most papers, so if we are to be honest and transparent, we should just state this sort of history. And it happens to the top researchers, too, although some people, judging by their productivity of 10+ papers a year, never get even requests for revisions.

May be a weaker form would be

I would like to thank the three anonymous referees and the associate editor of [THIS JOURNAL], as well as several other anonymous reviewers, for their helpful comments.

Sometimes, it happens that the most important revision was actually a couple of journals ago which really improved the paper, but that journal still did not accept the paper, so it cruised through another editorial board or two with just minor language remarks.

  • 10
    Hah! I've thought about Thanks to the anonymous referees for appearing to not read my paper and generically taking my word for it. Or, even better, Thanks for taking the time to point out those 2 spelling errors, and suggesting I cite one of your papers.. Perhaps we should just be thinking the other way, if I provide a helpful review (anonymous or not) I'm not going to hold it against the person if they don't give an explicit mention of thanks. If you actually listened to what I had to say I'm happy.
    – Andy W
    Mar 12, 2013 at 17:57
  • 2
    @Andy, apparently, you have not seen this: cs.cmu.edu/~eli/misc/review-process.html (not the original author from either side, I believe; this has been circulating with different journal titles and different university letterheads in it).
    – StasK
    Mar 12, 2013 at 22:01

I use the phrase "I thank an anonymous colleague for [providing an important idea]."

This implies that the idea came from someone else, but it doesn't explicitly mention that the paper was previously rejected or reviewed.

  • 1
    To me 'colleague' makes it sound like it might be someone you know who prefers to remain anonymous. But I still think this is quite a good idea.
    – Tara B
    Mar 11, 2013 at 12:29
  • Why are you using "I" within a paper?
    – mnemonic
    Apr 6, 2013 at 21:13
  • 2
    I understand and even use the author's "we" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nosism) in the main body of a paper, but I tend to be more informal in the acknowledgments. Of course, "I" applies only if I am the sole author, but you can also use "The author" if you desire.
    – JRN
    Apr 6, 2013 at 23:40

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