, Volume 83, Issue 2, pp 493–506

A content analysis of referees’ comments: how do comments on manuscripts rejected by a high-impact journal and later published in either a low- or high-impact journal differ?

  • Lutz Bornmann
  • Christophe Weymuth
  • Hans-Dieter Daniel

DOI: 10.1007/s11192-009-0011-4

Cite this article as:
Bornmann, L., Weymuth, C. & Daniel, HD. Scientometrics (2010) 83: 493. doi:10.1007/s11192-009-0011-4


Using the data of a comprehensive evaluation study on the peer review process of Angewandte Chemie International Edition (AC-IE), we examined in this study the way in which referees’ comments differ on manuscripts rejected at AC-IE and later published in either a low-impact journal (Tetrahedron Letters, n = 54) or a high-impact journal (Journal of the American Chemical Society, n = 42). For this purpose, a content analysis was performed of comments which led to the rejection of the manuscripts at AC-IE. For the content analysis, a classification scheme with thematic areas developed by Bornmann et al. (2008) was used. As the results of the analysis demonstrate, a large number of negative comments from referees in the areas “Relevance of contribution” and “Design/Conception” are clear signs that a manuscript rejected at AC-IE will not be published later in a high-impact journal. The number of negative statements in the areas “Writing/Presentation,” “Discussion of results,” “Method/Statistics,” and “Reference to the literature and documentation,” on the other hand, had no statistically significant influence on the probability that a rejected manuscript would later be published in a low- or high-impact journal. The results of this study have various implications for authors, journal editors and referees.


Journal peer review Content analysis Thematic areas for manuscript review Fate of rejected manuscripts 

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lutz Bornmann
    • 1
  • Christophe Weymuth
    • 2
  • Hans-Dieter Daniel
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Professorship for Social Psychology and Research on Higher EducationETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Biosynth AGStaadSwitzerland
  3. 3.Evaluation OfficeUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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