I submitted a paper to a journal in August. I got back notification today that the paper had been rejected.
At first, it sounded kind of harsh. The e-mail said simply:
Dear Dr. [me],
Thank you very much for submitting your paper [title] to [journal].
Unfortunately your paper cannot be accepted for publication.
With best regards,
But the editor sent me another message about 45 minutes later with a paragraph that had somehow been left out of the letter, containing an explanation as to why. But by that time I had figured out why, because I did have the two referees' comments.
The first referee was pretty harsh. The second one was less harsh, and more constructive, although definitely rejecting my paper in its present form.
Basically I think I was trying to accomplish too much in too little space. I really need to pare it down and then fill in more of the blanks. Both of the referees said that with a substantial rewrite and possibly some additional results, the paper could become suitable for publication. So not all is lost.
I forwarded the reviews to my former advisor, asking for his opinion, and he said that upon first inspection, "the criticisms, though numerous, are not fatal, and addressing them could result in a nice, publishable paper." He said he'd take a second look at the comments and give me a second opinion when he was done. I think I'll ask my mentor here to take a look too.
I was disappointed this morning, but I don't think it's an insurmountable setback. I will rewrite the paper, taking their advice, and resubmit it.