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I do not think you should ever withdraw a paper. When you send a paper to a journal, you are signing up for a wait. Many things are out of the editor's control. I heard (reliable) stories where editors looked for many months for qualified and willing reviewers for papers. So, if you are impatient - and I understand you may be - then do as Marcus did ... send to journals with reputations for quick turn around times.
My career has been one of many many long waits ... in a sense it has paid off. I think I now get many enviable opportunities. But I put in lots of time, waiting on slow journals etc. But often the slow ones are also the ones that get your paper read. Some journals are fast because they have few submissions, and few readers as well.


I've withdrawn at the 1.5ish year point (sent some inquiries, none of which were responded to, well before that). I should have withdrawn earlier, maybe more like around 8 months.

Non-responsiveness is a much bigger factor for me than just time. If a journal is non-responsive enough, it becomes reasonable to doubt whether your paper is actually going through some sort of review process (even broadly construed to include looking for reviewers, admin processing, etc).


I submitted a paper to a journal that says a confirmation receipt will be emailed with new submissions. Well, over a month later and I've still not received any confirmation that they even received my new submission. I emailed someone for an answer and no reply. What's the deal with that? Has the paper been received? Should I send it elsewhere?

Assistant Professor

R: looking at one the data sets provided in Marcus's post, I don't think it is correct to say that journals with long wait times are those with more readers or fewer submissions. It looks like many of the flagship journals have turnaround times of less than 6 months. As others have noted in the past, this is possibly due to a roster of reviewers on hand willing to review for these flagship outlets, off-setting the high volume of papers to review.

I am now an early career Assistant Professor, and having reasonable turn-around times was essential to me having a publication record that allowed me to get a job. I still find it important insofar as I don't want to be mired in promotion-related anxiety any more than necessary by wondering if and when I will know if any of my papers under review will land.

It is entirely appropriate to follow up on submitted papers on a reasonable timeline (you decide what feels 'reasonable' to you). Withdrawing papers might depend on your professional goals and the hopes you have for said paper. If you are in a role where you can afford to wait years for the paper to come out, and you think the journal is the right fit, or you have sent it everywhere else and you are at the bottom of your list of options, then stay the course. If that doesn't work for you, respectfully withdraw the paper. Waiting a year+ for word on a paper would not fit my professional goals, personally.

If it were me, I would indicate that the protracted timeline is my reason for withdrawing the paper, so the journal received constructive feedback on the process from my withdrawal.

Good luck!


T: I've been in this precise situation before and I withdrew the paper after less than a month.

I thought that confirmation of receipt was a really minimal way of assuring me that things were moving forwards, and that it made sense to move on when I didn't receive that in a timely fashion. (I didn't withdraw abruptly, I an inquiry before withdrawing)


In these situations, I normally prepare three emails. A first email simply inquiring about the status of the paper. If I hear nothing, a second email send later threatening to withdraw the paper at a set date. And, if I hear nothing, a third email at the set date withdrawing the paper. I could be wrong, but I think that delays are normally caused by reviewers, not editors. So I try to give the editors some time to get their reviewers in line. I have found this approach somewhat successful. Normally, I get some sort of response before the withdraw date.

The question is when to start this process. Some journals state on their websites the average review time. You could start emailing them as soon as your paper goes beyond that average review time. I normally wait about 9 months, especially recently with the pandemic. That's a long time. Some early career people may not want to wait that long. In that case, I would suggest submitting to journals with faster reviewer times first. (If you don't know which ones those are, ask around.)


I never send papers to journals that do not use Editorialmanager, Manuscriptcentral or similar online system where one can easily check the status of the paper and contact the editors easily. It is amazing that there still are journals (probably not many though) that simply asks authors to send the submission via email.

For instance, if the status of the paper is "Awaiting reviewer scores", then the referees are slow. But if the status is "Awaiting Editor Decision" then the editor is slow in making the decision based on referee recommendation. Or if the status is "Awaiting referee selection" then editor is slow in deciding who should review the paper. The point is that most of the time it is the referees who are slow, so there is no point contacting the journal if you see this yourself (there is not much editor can do if that is the case). Managing Editor, or editorial assistant, will send automatic replies to referees and in case the referee misses the deadline, editor will know and select a new referee. (sometimes the status of the paper is just "Under review", if that is the case then you cannot know who is the slow link). I would only contact the journal if its months and the status is still "Awaiting administration processing" or similar, which means the editor has not yet even seen the paper.

When it comes to publishing accepted papers, Wiley and Springer seem to be quite fast.

Peter Furlong

This advice doesn't apply specifically to the original questions asked, but since some of the discussion has moved to wait times, I wanted to recommend that people not be too afraid to email journals when it has been a long time. I have done this only twice, and in both cases the journals responded by letting me know that they had lost the papers (once before it was even sent out to referees, in a second case after they had decided to accept it, but before they told me anything).

Peter Finocchiaro

Marcus: what's the background on the two databases that you shared? Are they distinct from the APA-maintained Journal Surveys database? If so, do you have an opinion about how to compare them if/when their data conflict?

As for the reader's question, I'd second what some other comments have said. When I send an email and when I withdraw depends on the journal's *advertised* turnaround time. Speaking personally, I feel comfortable holding a journal accountable to its own standards, even if the main delay is caused by reviewers rather than editors. Of course, I also have to balance this against my professional goals, which at this stage cannot sustain turnaround times >12 months.

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