44

I have a manuscript that has been in review for 60 days. The journal asks for reviews within four weeks. At what point is it acceptable (and not detrimental) to contact the editor for an update? How should I phrase the request?

  • 9
    I guess it depends on the journal. I heard from my colleagues that they contacted an editor a year after submission and were replied with "we need more time". Regardless of the journal, I wouldn't do anything during the first 3-5 months. – Ran G. Mar 27 '12 at 4:30
  • Keep in mind that the journal has to find reviewers, and have them accept before that clock even starts running. – Fomite Mar 27 '12 at 5:02
  • Are you sure they received your submission? It's possible they didn't receive it and that's why they haven't replied. – Joel Reyes Noche Mar 27 '12 at 6:06
  • @joel yes, there is an online manuscript status checker – Abe Mar 27 '12 at 17:07
  • 1
    To give a counterpoint to the people reporting from mathematics or theoretical computer science. In my field (physics), you have a first decision after sixty days for the majority of papers. Thus, I would consider it appropriate to send a polite question to the editor in most cases – if the journal hasn’t given you a status update before this. In fact, from my experience with APS journals, they send you a mail about the delay before this (I have no experience with other publishers in this regard). But as already said this is strongly field-dependent. – Wrzlprmft Aug 7 '15 at 19:20
28

I don’t know your field, but in mine (theoretical computer science), you have to get used to long review processes. My personal rule is to contact the journal six months after submission. Given recent events, my new, additional rule is to also state upon submission that I can suggest referees if need be.

As EpiGrad commented, the four weeks time certainly refers to the time allowed to the referee. But additional stages take longer: a first quick scan of your paper to decide whether it’s worth troubling an editor with it; then the editor has to find referees; and, assuming they all complete their reviews in time, the editor also needs a little bit of time to reach a decision based on the reviews. Moreover, your paper might not be their top priority.

As for the “how”, something like this would do:

Dear Editor,

I understand that you must be extremely busy, but I was wondering about the status of my manuscript [title, reference number] that I submitted on [date]. Have you heard back from the referees yet?

Thanks a lot for your time.

Best regards, [name]

  • 4
    When you contact them you should also offer to suggest reviewers (or additional reviewers if you already gave suggestions) if they would like this. – mankoff Mar 27 '12 at 19:59
15

I think an answer to this really depends on a lot of things: at least on the journal and the field you are in.

I am from mathematics and there I usually ask after 6 month. Only for journals which are known for long refereeing times I sometimes wait for 9 month.

By the way: The American Mathematical Society publishes a list of expected waiting times and backlogs for some mathematical journals (see e.g. here or google "AMS journal backlog").

  • 2
    Thanks for the link, it will certainly come in handy for future submissions. – Anthony Labarre Mar 27 '12 at 7:19
5

I would say after six months is reasonable to ask for a status check. I am from engineering and I often politely ask after six months. If I don't hear from them with a final decision within the next two months I decide to withdraw the paper as it seems that the whole process will take too long and either the journal or the reviewer(s) is not very professional. Eight to nine months is very long response time for a first inquiry. Sometimes you just cant wait that long, you need to know whether is rejected or not because you need to present something on your PhD career, change a job, or as part of a funded project.

5

I believe that accepted answer is too informal for some people. I prepared following template for myself. Using following link and Coursera professional email course. I waited 4 months before sending this email.

Subject: Inquiry about my submitted article (#XXXX) to Journal - JOURNALNAME

Dear Dr. EDITORNAMESURNAME

My name is NAME SURNAME, and I am first author of article #XXXX (TITLE).
We submitted our article to journal JOURNALNAME on SUBMISSIONDATE.

We have not received an update regarding the status of our manuscript.
Could you let us know when we can expect notice regarding the decision of the editorial board?

Thank you for your time and effort.
Best Regards,


NAME SURNAME
3

If done respectfully, it is never unreasonable to request the status of your manuscript.

  • 5
    If done too soon it is unreasonable. – mankoff Mar 27 '12 at 19:58
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    @mankoff I disagree. You are building a professional relationship with the journal and you have a right to understand the details of that relationship. If you have questions about the process you should feel comfortable seeking answers. – DQdlM Mar 28 '12 at 13:51
  • What if they advertise to wait 2 months and you are e-mailing them after 2 weeks? This would be unreasonable. – Jase Dec 18 '12 at 5:02
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    @Jase I think this case is covered in my comment. If you were unclear about the process and have a legitimate question then no, it is not unreasonable. If they clearly state that the process will take 2 months and you understand this, then I don't see why you would be asking for clarification. In the original question it is clear that the OP has questions about the process that are not answered by the stated policies. – DQdlM Dec 18 '12 at 14:49
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    @Jase if you are just pestering the editor when they have made the expectations clear, then yeah that is inappropriate and I would also say not really respectful (even if polite). The OP seemed to be confused about the policy though... the OP says that the journal had the ms for 60 days but they ask for reviews to be completed in 4 weeks. – DQdlM Dec 18 '12 at 16:54
0

As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

In my experience, it is reasonable to politely request an update after ~2 months of review. With most manuscript trackers, it is possible to see where the manuscript is in the pipeline and send a gentle reminder if the manuscript is stuck in one stage for too long (e.g. reviewer section, review, editorial evaluation, etc). Keep in mind that most editors are volunteers and they may forget to follow up with reviewers in a timely manner due to their busy schedule. I find it hard to believe that a polite email would antagonize the editor since journals want to publish high quality papers in a timely manner.

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