How to respond to journal reviewers’ comments
- Research and innovation
Although we may wish that our journal papers were accepted on the first attempt, nearly every manuscript requires revision.
It can be easy to take the request to revise and resubmit personally and feel like you yourself are being criticised, but it’s important to remember that the purpose of the editors’ and reviewers’ comments is to improve the quality of your article so that the published version is the very best that it can be. Your journal article will stay associated with your name throughout the rest of your academic career, so you want to make sure that the finished result is something you’ll be proud of for years to come!
Here is our advice on how to respond to reviewer comments:
- Don’t be sloppy responding to a reviewer – take in all their comments and respond to them all. Even if you don’t agree with all the comments, respect that the reviewers have offered their time and expertise.
- Read the comments objectively – don’t take it personally. Remember that the reviewers are critiquing your work with the aim of improving it.
- Don’t misinterpret the comments – if it’s a minor comment you can always ask your PhD supervisor or colleague for their thoughts. If it’s a major comment, however you are not sure, go back to the editor/reviewer and ask for clarification.
- Consider reviewing as a process in which several peers discuss your work - learn from their comments and join in the discussion.
- Considering revising the whole manuscript – not just the parts the reviewers point out.
- If different reviewers have given opposing comments, go with the feedback you agree with and then provide a comprehensive justification.
- Talk to colleagues for their advice – you’re not asking them to be co-authors on the paper but are just seeking to learn from their experience. Senior colleagues are often happy to help.
- Never treat publication as a lottery by resubmitting a rejected manuscript directly to another journal without any significant revision - it will rarely save time or energy as it’s likely you’ll receive the same comments. (It’s also likely that you will get the same reviewers for different journals because of their field of expertise.)
- Start the revision with the part of your paper you are most confident with – it will give you the confidence to tackle the more difficult sections.
- It can be easy to get disheartened when being asked to revise for numerous rounds but remember - publishing in top journals is a challenge for everyone, we only see the finished article, and we don’t see the rejections and the revisions that have come beforehand.
Even if your paper is rejected, still consider the reviewers’ comments. It will help you with your next stage of development. Reflect and think on the comments for future papers.
Papers can get rejected on the first round, so any request for revisions (whether major or minor) is an achievement. Stay positive and remember that by revising your work, you’re improving its chances of being published and submitting the best version of your research.
Professor Annie Wei and Dr Muhammad Ali Nasir were part of a panel discussion for the Leeds University Business School’s doctoral research conference earlier this month (June 2022), speaking to our postgraduate researchers about the reviewing process.
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