I submitted a paper to a prestigious control journal. The editor provided the following review:

The decision is that your contribution cannot be accepted for publication in [the journal] in its present form. It needs substantial revision in order to possibly become publishable. Overall the decision is paper rejected provisionally.

The editor has invited me to revise and resubmit.

Is "paper rejected provisionally" equivalent to "major revision" ?

Will you advise me to politely inquire the editor about it so that there is no confusion. I mean before revising I want to be sure that there is some chance that the paper can be accepted if I incorporate the reviewer's comments.

  • 1
    Why are you suppressing the journal name?
    – Walter
    Jun 5, 2017 at 16:23
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    @Walter: Sometimes back I wrote a post mentioning journal name. I was told by admin/moderators that this site cannot comment on a particular journal and suggested me to ask general question. Jun 5, 2017 at 16:37
  • 1
    In case of this post, mentioning the journal name does not render the question non-general, though.
    – Walter
    Jun 5, 2017 at 16:39
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    @Walter Does it add anything, though? Someone choosing not to include the journal name doesn't seem like a big deal. Jun 5, 2017 at 17:53
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    Including the journal name is inappropriate. It could allow a reviewer who happens to read this to identify a blinded submission, for example.
    – Mars
    Jun 5, 2017 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


I've seen language like this before as well, and feel that it is unnecessarily confusing. Usually, what I have found is that it's effectively equivalent to "Major Revision." Here is a good heuristic for distinguishing:

  • If they give you a date that they'd like to see the revised version by, then it's equivalent to "Major Revision."
  • If they don't give you a date, then you've been rejected, but they really are inviting you to submit a better version when you are ready.
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    They have given deadline. Also, there is a resubmission link given in the original submission account. Jun 5, 2017 at 16:14
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    @RIchardWilliams Then it's just an awkward phrasing of a request for major revision.
    – jakebeal
    Jun 5, 2017 at 16:16
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    As I said in this answer of mine there can be nuances to the awkward phrasing including who reviews the new submission and the submission date.
    – StrongBad
    Jun 5, 2017 at 18:11
  • @jakebeal:Thanks for the earlier suggestion. Please suggest on the edit at the end of the post. Jun 6, 2017 at 5:43
  • @jakebeal: I think one reasonable explanation of "reject provisionally" phrase is that "your contribution cannot be accepted for publication in [the journal] in its present form". provisionally means that the paper is rejected in its present form. Jun 6, 2017 at 15:13

It needs substantial revision in order to possibly become publishable

That's sounds the same as "major revision" to me.

Is "paper rejected provisionally" equivalent to "major revision" ?

You're simply concentrating on the last thing written, not the part about "substantial revision", which is unambiguous. All the "provisional" part is saying is that they're open to re-submission after a big rewrite and are not completely rejecting it (and you). I'd actually consider it as a mildly encouraging choice of words.

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    "You're simply concentrating on the last thing written" Because that's the only part he doesn't understand! And I'd say that "rejected provisionally" is a very discouraging form of words. "Rejected" means "we don't your paper", whereas the intended message seems to be, "If you improve your paper, we might accept it." Jun 6, 2017 at 9:22
  • @StephenG: What about the above comment ? Jun 6, 2017 at 11:51

As an invited reviewer to some journals, my advice is to prepare a letter detailing a response to each comment and a major revision of the paper. The comments should direct you to what needs revising. Aim to do this as soon as you can. If there's a date, you must submit by that date. If there isn't, turn it around within 1 month. Good luck!

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