Q: How do I respond to the reviewer comments about state of knowledge, scientific perspective, and conclusion?
For my manuscript, the reviewer(s) had the following comments.
- Does the presentation reflect the present state of knowledge? No.
- There are unreasonable conclusions and a scientific perspective on the subject is less common.
How do I respond to these questions? How do I write the conclusion? How do I modify the subject?
The reviewer(s) has/have pointed out issues around three aspects, and you have three questions. So, let’s take them in sequence.
State of knowledge
These could point to any of the following:
- An inadequate literature review
- The findings not adding much to what is already known in the field or the specific topic you have addressed in your study
- The findings and/or the theories being too ‘far out’ (out of the ordinary)
The third is probably the case because of the statement “There are unreasonable conclusions and a scientific perspective on the subject is less common.”
It appears that you might have made a claim that is absolutely novel, making available scientific perspectives on the issue low to none. This often happens in science (for instance, in an emerging field of study) and is not always a negative thing. If you are confident of the veracity and soundness of your findings, you may confidently state your case, with adequate evidence and substantiation. For more help with communicating the novelty, see the related resource toward the end.
We’ll discuss this in your question around conclusion.
How do you respond to these questions?
You could frame your response along these lines: “I/We acknowledge that there is limited literature on this topic, which is why the conclusions seem a bit extraordinary. The novelty and unexpected nature of the findings are what I/we would like to highlight through this paper. I/We have the data to substantiate our claims and am/are happy to share them with you if needed. Further, I/we have added a statement in the conclusion section mentioning that further studies are needed to conclusively confirm these findings.” For further help with responding to peer review comments, see the relevant resources toward the end.
How do you write the conclusion?
You could reframe the conclusion to drive home the point that these are unusual findings, which might need confirmation in other datasets and/or larger datasets (if applicable). Note that the conclusion is usually written as a part of the discussion, but with some journals, it can be a separate section. See below for more help with writing the discussion/conclusion.
How do you modify the subject?
This would mean completely changing the study and the manuscript. It would mean abandoning this study and changing the course of your research. You need to consider whether you really wish to do that. Do note that there are certain fields of study with very narrow scope or that might be new or emerging in nature. Also, the subject may be outside of the scope of this journal (though in that case, they may have rejected the manuscript at the outset). Finally, note that if you are confident of your findings, you have the final say. You need not agree with every point raised by a peer reviewer. :)
For help with the various points discussed above, here are some resources you may find useful.
- How can I highlight the novelty of my research in the manuscript?
- How to respond to comments by peer reviewers
- How to write a great rebuttal letter
- How to write a convincing discussion section [Note: This is a link to a course on R Upskill, a sister brand offering learning programs for various aspects of a researcher's work and life, including writing, submission, publication, and career progression. For a limited period, the entire suite of courses is available for free, so do check it out.]
Hope that helps. All the best for making the changes and resubmitting, hopefully to get an acceptance decision!