When you suspect something has gone awry with the manuscript you submitted to an academic journal, when is it appropriate to contact the journal about it? And what are the clues that something has gone awry?
In response to that second question, here are some possibilities: (a) you have not received any acknowledgment that your manuscript has been received, (b) the manuscript management program the journal uses still says your submission is awaiting processing, (c) your manuscript has been sent out for review, but it is taking a very long time, (d) the editorial staff is not responding to your emails. (Other suggestions here welcome.)
But what’s the time frame on these?
To figure that out, the first thing to do would be to explore the publicly available information about the journal. The journal’s website may describe the typical timeline of manuscript consideration, especially when it comes to the refereeing stage. Or there may be relevant information available elsewhere (for example). But a journal is unlikely to have a section on its author guidelines webpage titled “When We Don’t Answer Your Emails,” or “Why It Seems Like We Haven’t Done Anything With Your Paper.”
So what are the appropriate expectations and etiquette for those matters not explicitly addressed by journal policy or third-party reports?
These questions are prompted by a recent email from a reader, who writes:
I submitted a paper to a journal well over a two weeks ago, but it still says it is awaiting administrative processing. Is this normal? If so, how long should I wait before getting worried? I’m a graduate student, and this is the first work I’ve sent out to a journal, so I’m not sure how long this first part is supposed to take (I understand that the review process has a reputation for taking months to complete). If you (or your readers) could help me out here, it would be much appreciated!
When it comes to acknowledgement of manuscript receipt, administrative processing, and other stages of a journal’s handling of your paper, how long is too long? Comments welcome, especially from journal editors.