Most journals have online submission systems, which have definitely made it easier and quicker for authors to submit their manuscripts. This is because online submission has completely abolished the uncertainty of postal speed, an obstacle faced when manually submitting a manuscript. In addition, online submission has also eliminated the need for several emails, saving the author from rummaging through different versions of the document. Thus, it is a boon to authors who are no longer vulnerable to losing out on important suggestions for change before publication, merely due to cluttered email. Once a manuscript is submitted, the online article tracking system allows authors to follow the journey of their manuscript. Post submission, authors experience a lot of anxiety, and it is natural for them to keep checking their manuscript or article status.
Whereas most journals provide detailed guidelines for the format of the research paper, they rarely, if ever, explain what various statuses displayed on the article tracking system denote. As a result, it sometimes becomes difficult for authors to figure out what a particular status means, and this increases their anxiety. They also become confused and nervous when they see the same status over a long period of time, or when the article status erratically fluctuates.
In some of our previous articles, we have attempted to provide answers to questions that authors generally have about the editorial decision making process and the possible editorial decisions on a manuscript. This article aims to give authors an idea of the different statuses that the tracking system displays and what each status means.
While each journal or publication house might use a slightly different term for each status, in general, here are the different possible statuses that the tracking system might show from submission to final acceptance or rejection:
1. Manuscript Submitted
This means that the manuscript has been successfully submitted and approved by the author. After this, the manuscript usually goes through a formatting check by the journal staff before it is assigned to an editor.
2. Editor Invited
This step is optional and may not occur in all journals. This means that the manuscript has been assigned to an editor and is waiting for the editor’s acceptance.
3. With Editor
This status indicates that an editor has taken charge of the manuscript. At this stage, the editor completes an initial screening of the manuscript, and if he/she finds it suitable for the journal, it is sent for peer review. If the manuscript does not match the scope of the journal or does not meet the standards of the journal, it will be returned without review. In such cases, it might show “Decision in Process” as the next status, and in all probability, the author will be informed of the rejection in a few days.
4. Reviewer Invited
This step is optional: this step may not occur in all journals. Once a paper passes the initial screening stage, the editor looks for peer reviewers for the paper. When the system shows the status “Reviewer invited,” it means that invitations have been sent out to reviewers, but they have not yet accepted. Sometimes, the tracking system may show the “Reviewer Invited” status for some time and then move back to “With Editor.” This probably means that the peer reviewers have declined the invitations, and the editor will now have to look for other reviewers.
5. Under Review
This status means that the manuscript is under peer review. Peer reviewers are busy scientists, and peer review is an honorary service that requires detailed scrutiny and evaluation of the manuscript. Hence, this is perhaps the most time-consuming part of the entire publication process. It can take anywhere between one to four months, depending on the journal and the field of study.
6. Required Reviews Complete
This status indicates that all the peer reviews have been completed and received by the editorial office. Sometimes, the editor, after going through the reviews, might feel that an additional review is required. In such cases, the status might go back to “Under Review.” So, do not be surprised if this happens: once the additional review is completed, the status will come back to “Required Reviews Complete.”
7. Decision in Process
This means that the editor is now taking a decision on your paper based on the peer reviewer comments and his/her own opinion. If required, the editor may consult the editorial board at this stage. Once this status shows up, the author is generally informed of the editorial decision in a few days’ time. However, in some exceptional situations, several weeks pass by with this status constantly being displayed, and the author does not receive any decision. This might happen if the editor is very busy and there are a lot of other papers queued up at his/her table, waiting for their turn.
This indicates that the author has been asked to make major or minor revisions depending on the reviewer comments, and the submission is now with the author. The author is usually given a deadline of a few weeks to a couple of months depending on the nature of revisions and the field of study. The author can request that the deadline be extended by writing to the editor in advance. The author needs to submit the revised manuscript along with a point-by-point response to the reviewer comments.
9. Revised Manuscript Submitted
This indicates that the author has submitted the revised document. The document is now awaiting a formatting check by the journal.
10. Author Declines to Revise
This shows that the author has clicked on an action link indicating that he/she does not wish to submit a revised version of the manuscript. In other words, the author is not ready to make the revisions suggested and would like to withdraw his/her paper.
11. Completed Withdrawal
If an author chooses to withdraw his/her paper, the withdrawal process is complete once the author has put in a request for withdrawal and the editor has agreed to it. Remember that an e-mail from the editor confirming the withdrawal is absolutely necessary before the manuscript can be submitted to another journal; else it may be considered as a duplicate or simultaneous submission.
12. Completed Reject
In case the author has made the revisions requested by the peer reviewers and editor, the final decision on the manuscript could be either “accept” or “reject.” In case the editor is not satisfied with the revisions, the paper could be rejected. This status shows that based on the revisions and the author’s responses to the reviewer comments, the editor has made a final decision of rejecting the paper.
13. Completed Accept
This status indicates that the editor is satisfied with the revisions made by the author and has made a final decision of acceptance.
I hope this answers some of the questions that authors have about the different statuses on a journal article tracking system. However, remember that all journals might not display exactly the same or all of the statuses mentioned above. On the other hand, some journals might display a few statuses that have not been included in this list.