How to make sure your paper will be rejected

Paper quality follows a Pareto/Zipfian distribution, also called a power law. It is a fancy way of saying that most papers are just not very good. In fact, most papers are so bad that you can determine in less than five minutes that they are not good. Here are a few telling tales:

  • The paper has JPEG images with obvious compression artifacts: most people know to either use vector graphics (such as postscript) or to use high-resolution bitmap images (usually using lossless encoding).
  • The paper uses poor English. A scientific paper ought to be better written than my blog. And getting the spelling and grammar right is not enough.
  • The paper has oddly formatted or overly complex formula. There is such a thing as mathematical typography.
  • The authors have obviously never heard of unbreakable spaces.
  • The authors did not use a spell-checker.
  • The authors have experiments to validate their work, but they do not benchmark against any competing method.

I do not claim that checking the points above is enough to produce a good paper, but using a highly compressed JPEG image, or using “a * b” instead of “ab” in a formula will not help you.

Daniel Lemire, "How to make sure your paper will be rejected," in Daniel Lemire's blog, November 12, 2007.

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Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

3 thoughts on “How to make sure your paper will be rejected”

  1. Thanks, for a good post, Daniel. I absolutely agree with the point about unbreakable spaces. However, a lot of really good journals (like Physical Review for instance) simply neglect it. Recently my paper was accepted in Journal of Chemical Physics, I’ve got the author’s proofs, and all the unbreakable spaces, I made in the .tex file were broken! I find it really ugly, when “Fig.” and “4” are at different lines…

  2. Spelling correction: “The authors did not used a spell-checker”

    Hopefully intentional to make a point, but if not…

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