Q: How should I reply to a reviewer comment stating that the sample size is small?

Detailed Question -

The reviewer asked why the sample size is small or why I did not include some other samples, which is quite true, in fact. How should I reply to these questions in a positive way?

1 Answer to this question

It’s interesting that you too sense that the sample size is too small. So, the reviewer’s comments do seem valid. In that case, here are the possible ways in which you can proceed.

  • Increase the sample size: You may need to do this in either of two ways, by increasing the size of the population you are studying or by increasing the variety (segments) of the population you are studying. You will have to decide based on the goals of your study. However, as you can understand, this may involve more time and may impact the resubmission timeline. If you decide to go this way, you should write to the associate editor (AE) seeking an extension as needed.
  • Retain the sample size: There are two ways of proceeding here too. In both cases, it would help to discuss with the AE on how best to proceed. They would be able to guide you better as they are the closest to your study (after you, of course). One, as it may now not be possible to extrapolate the results of your study to the broader population, you may decide to discuss this as a limitation of your study in the Discussion/Conclusion section(s). You may wish to do a follow-up study later for a bigger population. Two, given the present sample size, the AE may decide that this doesn’t warrant to be a complete paper and suggest that you submit this as a ‘shorter/smaller’ article: a letter to the editor, a mini-paper, or something such. Different journals have different names for this. You will need to find out what it is called here, if they do allow this, in the first place.

You will need to decide which direction to go in based on the time available to you and your research or publication goals.

Hope that helps.

For responding to peer review comments, you may find the following resources helpful:

All the best for the next steps!