Common reasons

Professor Hassan Bella

Common reasons why papers are rejected for publication

Ø       The study did not examine an important scientific issue

Ø       The study was not original (someone else has already done the same or a similar study)

Ø       The study did not actually test the author’s hypothesis

Ø       A different type of study should have been done

Ø       Practical difficulties (e.g. in recruiting subjects) led the authors to compromise on the original study protocol

Ø       The sample size was too small

Ø       The study was uncontrolled or inadequately controlled

Ø       The statistical analysis was incorrect or inappropriate

Ø       The authors have drawn unjustified conclusions from their data

Ø       There is considerable conflict of interest (e.g. one of the authors or a sponsor might benefit financially from the publication of the paper and insufficient safeguards were seen to be in place to guard against bias)

Ø       The paper is so badly written that it is incomprehensible (Source: Greenhalgh T.  How to read a paper.  The basics of evidence-based medicine. 

London: British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 1997)

Problems encountered by technical and copy editors, authors, journal editors and


Ø       Inconsistency in: spellings, use of units, presentation of units, use of symbols

Ø       Too many tables/figures makes layout difficult

Ø       Lack of care in determining levels of headings (keep to a minimum)

Ø       Literary not scientific language/lack of clarity

Ø       Errors in quoting from source material

Ø       Errors in cross-referencing data (e.g. data in text does not match data in tables/figures; statements in abstract do not match statements/conclusions in text)

Ø       Incomplete referencing: author, title, journal, volume, issue, date, page numbers, or author/editor, book title, place of publication, publisher, year, page numbers

Ø       Too many references: are they all valid?

Ø       Poor quality figures/photos

Ø       Poorly designed tables

(Source: WHO and other sources)