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Tips for responding to comments by peer reviewers

Jayashree Rajagopalan | Nov 11, 2014 | 32,030 views
Tips for responding to peer review comments

After submitting your paper to the journal, preparing to deal with peer review is the next point of focus. Responding to peer reviewers’ comments can be quite stressful, as the journal will accept your paper only after you have addressed all peer review comments, and they can range from minor language changes to extensive content revisions. But if you are well prepared to respond to peer reviewers’ comments in a practical manner, the process need not be so daunting. Here are some tips to help you respond to reviewers’ comments with confidence.
 

  • Provide responses, not reactions: It is always a good idea to take a short break instead of responding to responding to reviewer comments immediately. Use the  time to revisit the comments or suggestions and decide how you plan to address each issue. This will ensure that you have understood the reviewers’ concerns. 
  • Organize your responses: Reviewers provide their comments and suggestions in the form of paragraphs. Organize these as a numbered list and address each point. You could also organize them further by adding sections for each reviewer's comment, such as "Reviewer 1" or "Comment 1."
  • Ensure that your arguments are coherent and logical: It is not essential for an author to agree with all of the reviewers' comments. In case, you share a differing opinion, do not hesitate to express it. However, explain the reason for your disagreement instead of simply stating that you are refuting the reviewers' suggestion. The more evidence-based and logical your response is, the easier it will be for the reviewers to follow your train of thought and even accept your reasoning.
  • Be detailed and specific: To help journal editors/reviewers understand your responses better, ensure that your responses are detailed and that they cover all aspects of the comments. Consider specifying sources of data, describing the tests you performed, or including the sentences you have revised to save them time. 
  • Maintain the right tone: Often, authors respond to comments emotionally and this is reflected in the tone of their responses. Remember that the peer review is an evaluation of your research and a personal judgement. Maintain a polite tone throughout, including instances when you disagree strongly with the reviewers’ comments. In the case of a disagreement, it is best to provide a scientific explanation to support your standpoint.
  • Acknowledge the reviewers’ efforts: Peer reviewers are not paid for their work and often volunteer do it because they are passionate about the field. The longer and more extensive reviewers' comments, the more time they have spent on your work. View their comments as constructive feedback and remember to thank them for their time and effort.
  • Do not feel obligated to agree with reviewers’ comments: Avoid agreeing with a reviewer, assuming that you are expected to do so. At the end of the day, it is your study and your reputation as a researcher at stake.
  • Dealing with conflicting feedback: If you have received opposing comments from different reviewers, evaluate the feedback, decide which reviewer you agree with more with, follow his/her advice, and justify your decision to the editor. Alternatively, seek the journal editor’s advice on the conflicting opinions.
  • Dealing with requests for major revisions: As word count requirements are determined based on space constraints, you may have to comply and ensure that your manuscript meets the required limit. Sometimes, reviewers may ask you to supply large sets of data or include more than a page of text. If the suggestions fit the scope of your research and if you agree with them, you could consult with the journal editors to determine whether space constraints allow you to make the additions.

These tips will help you address peer reviewers’ comments adequately and confidently and improve the quality of your research. 

You may also be interesed in reading this post on responding to feedback from peer reviewers.

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