How to respond to comments by peer reviewers

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Comments by peer reviewers and journal editors are meant to help authors improve their manuscript. Follow the three golden rules when responding to reviewer comments.

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How to respond to comments by peer reviewers

  1. 1. How to respond to comments by peer reviewers Helping you get published
  2. 2. How to respond to comments by peer reviewers Once you submit your painstakingly written research paper to the journal of your choice, you will most likely be on tenterhooks for weeks or months before you hear from the journal editor about the decision on your manuscript. The journal’s verdict and the peer reviewers’ comments need not be a bitter pill to swallow if you are prepared to deal with them pragmatically.
  3. 3. The impact factor and other measures of journal prestigeTips for responding to reviewersAs authors, you may dread receiving reviewer comments asking for major revisions. It’sdaunting to rework something for which you have already taken great pains. But don’tbe tempted to give up. Most often, the final outcome is worth the effort. Here are somepointers on how to respond to such comments.1. Take a break2. Give point-by-point responses3. Provide well-reasoned arguments4. Pay attention to detail5. Watch your tone6. Appreciate the reviewers’ work
  4. 4. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersTips for responding to reviewers1. Take a break: Initial irritation is only natural. Take time off and then read the comments again carefully and objectively to ensure that you have clearly understood the reviewers’ concerns.2. Give point-by-point responses: Number the reviewers’ points and respond to them sequentially. Use headings such as “Reviewer 1” then “Comment 1.” This makes it easier for the editor/reviewers to follow what you have done. It is essential to address each and every point that the peer reviewer or journal editor may have raised.
  5. 5. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersTips for responding to reviewers3. Provide well-reasoned arguments: If you do not agree with a reviewer’s comment, you should say so. However, do not simply state your disagreement. Provide as many details as necessary to help the reviewer understand your line of reasoning. Where possible, cite published studies to support your argument.
  6. 6. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersTips for responding to reviewers4. Pay attention to detail: Details are important when explaining how you have addressed each concern. For example, if a reviewer has said that you need to include/reinterpret data, you can describe the tests you performed and the results you got and mention where you have added this information. You may be considerate and even paste the exact sentences that you have added or modified in the manuscript when following a reviewer’s suggestion, since this can save the editor/reviewer the trouble of switching between files.
  7. 7. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersTips for responding to reviewers5. Watch your tone: Remember, the reviewers are critiquing your work, not you. Do not let your responses reflect any bitterness. If you disagree on some point, say so honestly but respectfully, and support your statement with a rational, scientific explanation, citing references from the literature for support.
  8. 8. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersTips for responding to reviewers6. Appreciate the reviewers’ work: Peer reviewers invest their own time in reviewing your manuscript, without pay. For the most part, their intention is to help authors improve their study. Take advantage of their advice. In fact, a long list of detailed comments from a reviewer usually means that reviewer has spent time evaluating your study and providing constructive feedback. Be sure to thank the reviewer for their consideration and effort .
  9. 9. How to respond to comments by peer reviewers Editor SpeakThe point-by-point responses should address the concerns directly, offering adescription of the changes made or an explanation as to why the commentwas set aside. There should be reasoned disagreement and not justdisagreement.2- A former journal editor
  10. 10. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersAre peer reviewers always right?Peer reviewers are essentially experts in their field. However, this does not mean that theircomments should be taken as gospel. Evaluate each of the reviewers’ comments on theirmerits. Do not agree with a reviewer just for the sake of agreeing or with the mistakenimpression that the journal editor expects you to incorporate all of the reviewers’suggestions. At the end of the day, it is your study and reputation at stake.
  11. 11. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersAre peer reviewers always right?You may also find yourself receiving conflicting feedback from reviewers. One reviewer maybe satisfied with the methodology while another may consider it inappropriate.Minor differences of opinion are natural, but such diametrically opposite views can beperplexing. See which reviewer you agree more with and follow his/her advice, and justifyyour decision to the editor.Alternatively, you could request the editor to give you a third opinion. Ultimately, it is thejournal editor who will make the decision on how to handle the conflict. Providing a well-reasoned argument is likely to tip the balance in your favor.
  12. 12. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersDealing with requests for major changesWord count reductions: Sometimes, your paper may be accepted for publication, but thejournal editors may request you to trim your article by, say, one-third. This seeminglyunreasonable request is often justified because in their endeavour to publish high-qualityarticles promptly, editors often face the problem of shortage of space. You will almostcertainly have no choice but to comply with this request.
  13. 13. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersDealing with requests for major changesRequests for extra data or text: Reviewers may suggest various types of changes, fromtweaking certain sentences to revising entire paragraphs. Occasionally, you may be asked tosupply large sets of data or include more than a page of text. Provided the suggestedchanges are within the scope of the manuscript and you agree with them, you may wish tofirst consult with the journal editors to determine whether space constraints allow you tomake the additions.
  14. 14. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersConclusionComments from peer reviewers, more often than not, offer an excellent opportunity toimprove the quality of your manuscript. Addressing them adequately may increase thechances of acceptance, if not in that journal, elsewhere at least.
  15. 15. How to respond to comments by peer reviewersREFERENCES:1. Williams H.C. (2004). How to reply to peer review comments when submitting papers for publication. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 51, 79–83.2. Samet J.M. (1999). Dear Author—Advice from a Retiring Editor. American Journal of Epidemiology, 150, 433–436
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