A Brief Reflection on Rejection


Roughly two hours ago I received my first paper submission notification. Here are a few reflections of the thought process that have occurred in that time…

It was my first ever paper. It was submitted a good few months ago, about 6 or 7 months into my Ph.D, and the responses came today. This is the typical timeframe in academia (if not a little shorter than many of the review processes out there). Unsurprisingly, it was rejected. My initial reaction?

Yep. When you see words like “I don’t think it’s acceptable,” “problems throughout” and “needs to be entirely rewritten,” it’s enough to make you want to throw your books out the window and reconsider your journey in academia. It’s understandable: this is your work, your research, your findings and (if you’re like me) something that will end up being part of your Ph.D thesis. This stuff matters!

However, just as quickly as these feeling appeared, another set of thoughts came about to counteract this initial feeling of “yep, you ARE that imposter you thought you were:”

  • This is peer review, from academics far more experienced and knowledgable than I am. The comments (no matter how brutal on the surface) are extremely well informed and will go to assisting my work on the whole
  • A rejection is not the same as “don’t bother trying again.” With a bit more time and research, it’s entirely possible that it can be published the next time
  • The information provided by reviewers is invaluable to the professional development process. I feel more informed on how the publication process works and how I can develop from this point forward

Of course, I would’ve loved to have a few statements like “oh, that’s a really good point” thrown in there, but hey… I’m alarmingly British and love a good ‘feedback sandwich!’

My greatest concern? The notion of “publish or perish,” once again. While I’ve still got 26 months before thesis submission (not that I’m counting…) it seems as though the window of opportunity is closing. Perhaps I’ll look back at this in a year and see how naïve this statement is, just as I’m sure that I’ll look over my original paper submission and note the naïve scholarship… but that irritating doubt still resides. So for now I’ll (and what I’d suggest to anyone in the same boat) let these comments lie and return to them when I feel a bit more confident in myself.

Even the greatest professors had to start somewhere, right?


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