The 5 stages of paper rejection

Getting papers rejected sucks. No one likes to have their publication dreams stabbed in the heart and pouring blood all over the place. However it happens more often than anyone likes to admit, and is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s a learning process, and not unlike coming to terms with a loss.


Now to Kubler-Ross model suggest that this occurs in 5 steps: First denial, then anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. I think this is very accurate. If I translate my thought process after getting a paper rejected:

1. Denial: “Well duh, this reviewer totally didn’t get the point of my research”

2. Anger: “How the fig did they not understand the point of my research!”

3. Bargaining: “If only I had added that figure, they would have understood the point of my research”

4. Depression: “Who am I kidding, my research has no point” (often followed by a cry and a sleep)

5. Acceptance: “Well, better make the changes the reviewer suggested, and then my research may have a point”


In essence, to survive a PhD you need to learn to survive this process without taking it to heart. And there is no reason to feel bad about rejection – embrace it! It always comes with constructive feedback. Someone has taken the effort to read through your (let’s face it) boring manuscript and come up with suggestions to improve it. So improve it. Resubmit it. Get it published. Learn to love the review process and feedback from others.

And remember to be nice when you write your own reviews, otherwise you might end up on sh*t my reviewers say!


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