In this editorial, I reflect on my last 6 years as associate editor for Construction Management and Economics to explain common problems found in manuscripts rejected in our peer-review process. These issues highlight the importance of engaging with current conversations in and related to the field, and the need to strengthen our contributions so that we as a collective community can advance and challenge fundamental assumptions in the ways we think about our research questions. To do so, recommendations are made on the use of citations of previous research, and the logic of rhetorical moves in a typical article so that the research framing in the front-end and the discussion of results in the back-end can more convincingly, coherently and comprehensively emphasize the news value of studies published in this journal. By returning to the basics of what editors and reviewers look for in papers, I also make the case for finding a balance between theoretical rigour and practical engagement with challenges that matter in our field. It is my vision, as incoming editor-in-chief, to encourage not just strong theoretical engagement in the manuscripts we accept, but also to start interesting conversations around subject matters relevant to our field.