What happens to my manuscript after it’s submitted?

There are three things that happen to a manuscript between submission and editorial decision: the Technical Check, the Review Cycle, and the Editorial Review.

Technical Check

When the editorial office receives a new or revised manuscript, it is queued for a technical check. We download a PDF version with all the submitted items incorporated, and check to see that it meets initial requirements. We may send the manuscript back for formatting changes before an editor is assigned and reviewers are invited.

Although it may seem picky, it pays off in the long run. It’s easier to make sure the details are in place at the beginning of the process than it is to scramble for missing pieces just before a publication deadline.

The most frequently requested corrections on first submission are:

Abstract and keywords missing from the manuscript file. The Web site is configured to incorporate abstract text into reviewer invitations, but this text is not retained for production purposes. If the manuscript file doesn’t contain the abstract and keywords, the typeset article will lack them as well.

Reference formatting. Although many nursing publications employ APA Style, CIN follows the latest edition of the AMA Manual of Style. If the references are in any format other than AMA, the manuscript will be sent back for corrections. Related issues include numbering reference citations but leaving the list in alphabetical format so that, for example, reference citation 5 is first in text; and keeping text citations in APA format with citation numbers, for example (Gossage and Simpson, 2006) ¹.

Copyright transfer form missing or not signed. Although we do not return manuscripts submitted without a completed copyright form, they are not processed further until the form has been received. A reminder e-mail is sent to the corresponding author after 4-6 weeks.

Revised manuscripts may also be returned for corrections. Common problems include the following:

Signing, or using institutional letterhead for, the response to reviewers. Round 2 peer reviews are blinded. The response to reviewers is included with the revised manuscript. Signing it, or using letterhead that reveals author affiliations, breaches the blinding process, and the manuscript will be returned for corrections.

Marking revisions in text with tracked changes, boldface, or colored text. The response to reviewer comments should provide reviewers with enough information to locate changes in text. Tracked changes (strikeouts and colored text), or text that is in boldface or changed from black to red or blue, are not only unnecessary, they can distract from the final evaluation. Colored text will print out in shades of gray on a laser printer, which is difficult to read.

If the article is accepted for publication after the second review without the need for substantive revisions, the coding for tracked changes or colored text may cause problems in typesetting.

Copyright transfer form missing. Be sure that the copyright form is checked as an item to carry forward from the first submission when you submit revised files.


Review Cycle

After technical review, we send out invitations to peer reviewers asking them to evaluate the content in the manuscript. Reviewer expertise is matched to manuscript topic using the classifications that authors select for their manuscripts.

The more specific selected topic classifications are, the better chance a reviewer with the right expertise will be invited to look over the article. We advise selecting at least three classifications, but if all classifications selected by the author are generic (for example, “informatics,” “technology use,” “computer-mediated communication”) it’s more difficult for us to find a good match.

Reviewers are allowed 7 days to respond to review invitations by accepting or declining, and are asked to return comments within 30 days if they accept. When everything proceeds according to plan, review comments may be returned in less than a month.

We generally wait 10-14 days before sending reminders for reviews past due date. Two sets of comments are preferred as a basis for an editorial decision, so if one reviewer is unable to complete the assignment, an alternate reviewer will be invited.

Editorial Review

When the required number of reviews have been received, the comments and manuscript are forwarded for an editorial review. In an ideal world, both reviewers make the same recommendation for the manuscript and provide helpful comments to the author where needed to improve the article. The editor agrees, the decision is rendered, and the manuscript proceeds to the revision stage or is accepted and forwarded to production to be prepared for publication.

What sometimes happens is that reviewer recommendations diverge widely. One reviewer thinks the article is a good fit for the journal; the other does not. In these cases, the handling editor acts as a referee, considering the review comments, re-reading the manuscript, and making the decision as to how the manuscript will be processed.

If the disagreement between recommendations is strong enough, a third reviewer may be invited to evaluate the manuscript.

The editorial review may also pick up areas where the manuscript can be improved, such as style or formatting requirements, lack of mention of IRB approval, or issues in translation from another language to English.

The editorial decision incorporates the reviewer’s recommendations and the next step in the process; for example, if the reviewers recommend major content changes, the editorial decision will likely be revise and resubmit for re-review. If only minor changes to content are recommended, an editor may choose to conduct the final review without involving peer reviewers, or may accept the manuscript pending revisions and final editorial approval.