At the EARNet doctoral symposium I was asked to comment on rejection for “no contribution or lack of incremental contribution”! To be honest, I have never had one, but that is because they are much rarer in the experimental and field study areas I suspect than in archival research. Furthermore, when I do archival research I do it on mostly hand collected Canadian data, which while being somewhat limiting in where I can publish (CAR and international journals) makes it unlikely that “no contribution” can be found.
I suspect most rejections in the social and behavioral world (i.e. experimental, field studies, and surveys) are more due to internal validity concerns (the easy ones to reject) or external validity concerns (the harder one).
Personally, my main rejections of my personal research (from top 6 journals) have been due to
- Not measuring what I think I am measuring on the independent variable – this happened in my foray into expertise of audit committee members. Internal validity issue.
- Creating a new construct that is not in accord with conventional wisdom and not doing enough to convince readers of its validity – archival measure of negotiation taking place. Internal validity concerns.
- Using too complex of experimental manipulations so that one small difference in parallel wording leads to speculation about alternative stories that I could rule out despite my extensive manipulation checks. Many researchers are taught to use as few of word differences as possible in their manipulations. However, when dealing with expert partners and other experienced people, you have to give several cues to trigger the mindset you are hoping to tap into. Hard to do that in eight words or less. This involves internal validity concerns versus external validity.
- Use of Canadian data when attempting to publish in American 3. It can be done (i.e. you can publish non-American data in the 3) but it has to be carefully phrased and I am not so good at phrasing to American tastes. This is external validity from an American exceptionalism view of the world (i.e. we can publish American data in foreign journals but do not try to publish your data in our journals).
- Using atypical methods like theory informed surveys and positivistic field research. Hard to write a paper and teach a method at the same time. It can be done, and I have done it, but it is hard to do. This relates to internal validity – convincing reviewers that you have met the standards.
Note that all of these, while troubling, are justified concerns. However, at JAR, many of my rejections have been received due to inappropriate reviewers – but what can you expect from a journal with at most two experimental researchers on its editorial board. Indeed, my favorite JAR rejection, after the Katherine Schipper era, was “The author clearly knows nothing about auditor client management negotiation.” That was at the time after I had co-authored 1 JAR, 2 CAR, 1 AOS and 1 AJPT paper on negotiations. Guess all those journals had incompetent reviewers, eh??????