#3: 4 Mistakes Made By University Academics That Guarantee Their Journal Article Will Fail the Peer-Review Process

Young man with beard looking dejected

Writing academic articles is time-consuming. Let’s see how we can guarantee that an article is rejected by a journal publisher.

As an academic it’s important to build a solid track record of high-quality journal publications. If we understand why articles are rejected by journal reviewers, we can write articles in a way that avoids some of the most common errors.

Unfortunately, many academics continue to make mistakes such as expecting a journal’s readership to be interested in their work, without understanding what the audience wants to read

Here are some other reasons why academics struggle to make actionable progress.

  • The article does not comply with the formatting instructions
  • The literature review section lacks critical evaluation
  • The article contains spelling, grammatical and typographical errors

Don’t despair though. Follow these steps and you will dramatically enhance your chances of having your articles accepted for publication.

Here’s how, step by step:

Mistake 1: Your article doesn’t fit the journal

Journal publishers work hard to establish a brand that their readers trust. They present content that is relevant to their audience. If you submit an article that doesn’t fit, it won’t get accepted.

Journals usually have a section on their website that describes the range of topics that they accept.

Often though, this description is not detailed enough.

Take the time to read previous issues of the journal.

Get a feel for the topics that they publish.

Do these topics match your work?

If so, go to Step 2. 

If not, find another journal and repeat.

Mistake 2: Your article isn’t formatted correctly

At first sight this is pretty basic.

But lots of articles are rejected outright because they have not followed the formatting instructions.

References must be correct.

Page lengths must not be exceeded.

Figures must be legible.

What would you do if someone sent you an article to review that did not comply with your rules?

Yes, you would reject and spend your precious time on the articles that had followed the instructions.

Make use of typesetting tools such as LaTeX and referencing packages to present your work in the best light possible.

Mistake 3: Your arguments lack rigour

If you get to this stage, you have avoided a lot of the fundamental mistakes.

Next, check that your arguments are scholarly.

Have you have cited other research literature to support your arguments?

Is the cited work directly relevant?

Not some spurious work that attempts to make the article look academic.

Pay attention to how you write the text of your literature review section. Most of the sentences in this section should be justified and contain a citation. Make every word count towards your argument.

And at the end of every argument is a conclusion.

Don’t leave the reader ‘hanging’, wondering what you actually mean.

Mistake 4: Spelling and grammar errors

All the hard work has been done now.

You are already way ahead of those who haven’t followed the previous 3 steps.

But don’t get complacent.

Spelling and grammar mistakes are a sign to the journal editor that you don’t care enough to present good work. Does this mean that your science lacks care as well?

Separate proof-reading time from the actual writing.

Let the work sit on your desk, while you work on something else. When you return to your article, you will have a fresh perspective.

You might also seek help from a ‘writing buddy’. They help proof-read your work, and you return the favour to them when they write.


  • Do your homework
  • Read the formatting instructions
  • Craft scholarly arguments
  • Get help with proof-reading

By following these steps you will avoid the four most common reasons for having your article submission rejected outright.