Responding to Reviewers – Effectively & Professionally

Firstly, you need to note that responding to reviewers whenever they are done assessing your research paper is a challenging task. It can be likened to writing the initial manuscript.

Your response may as well be necessary when it comes down to resolving issues that have been addressed in your paper. Bear in mind that the way you respond to the criticism you get can have a significant effect on your paper.

This effect is based on if the paper will be published at the end of the day or not. This is why getting your response right is necessary. In all honesty, the procedure to be followed in getting your response right is time-consuming.

Responding to reviewers involves:

  • Responding, and;
  • Revising

Sometimes, you will have to respond and revise yet again. It is quite frustrating. However, you must bear in mind that both the journal editor you at interacting with and the reviewers assessing the work are all aiming towards one goal.

This goal revolves around the timely publication of an amazing research paper. An expert approach that makes use of an objective tone to deal with all details will make the work of both editors and reviewers efficient.

Also, the publication cycle will run smoothly and much more successful. Additionally, your paper must be formal and correct, as well. You are to read and ultimately polish your response until each sentence is distinct, precise, and accurate.

pointing handIncreasing Your Publishing Chances

Because all response letter to the reviewer’s comments is regarded as unique, there are sample letters that you can make use of in crafting your response.

Always have it in mind that, as you begin writing your response, it is not only the editor but the reviewers as well that may see all you have penned down. Also, editors may likely cut, paste, and share your responses as they like.

They do this to attain the ideal result they are envisioning for your paper. This is why you must be ready for every possibility. You can take it upon yourself to address every one of the reviewers individually as you react to their comments.

Also, you should aim for a layout that will make everything absolutely transparent. What this means is that you are to make your response clear on the comment you are actually responding to at a point in time.

You are also to state clearly what you have actually changed in the manuscript. Some authors make use of different fonts and colors in distinguishing between the reviewer’s comments from their own responses, as well as changes.

However, take note that all of these features can get lost in some online formats. This is why a PDF file or a word document be a much more reliable alternative for such a format.

Furthermore, you should not hesitate to repeat this information wherever necessary. You can incorporate little adjustments that are geared at the exact person you will be addressing in every case.

Nevertheless, do not ever make the mistake of writing just anything to one reviewer that you will never want another reviewer to read. In cases where you have a specific issue of a sensitive nature to discuss with one editor, this is what you should do.

Ensure that you discuss such an issue in a different document that is clearly not intended for the eyes of other reviewers. Bear in mind that you should never neglect to actually thank the reviewers and editor for the comments and observations.

The fact remains that their time is quite precious to them. This means that their comments on your particular manuscript show that they have taken a particular portion of their time to assist you.

This assistance is for you to improve your paper. However, be very cautious and not overstate the gratitude aspect. Also, you are to risk the impression of any flattery that is hollow.

Thoughtful attention to every one of the suggestions and observations that your reviewers provide will effectively repay all their efforts.

pointing handMaterials Needed for the Re-submission

The materials you will need to carry out your paper Re-submission include:

The letter you are to write to the editor basically summarizes the changes you are making to the manuscript. Also, it may probably involve your defense of the manuscript. It is to be written towards the end just right before your resubmission.

However, the first thing you are to prepare is the letter to every one of the reviewers. Or, you can simply make a combined point by point response that addresses all the comments made by the reviewers.

  • Letter to the reviewers or point by point response

The point by point response is regarded as the most vital aspect of your resubmission. Like we mentioned earlier, it is the first thing you are meant to prepare. You should start it with a vote of thanks to the reviewers.

You are thanking them for the time they have spent on your paper review, as well as their constructive yet insightful comments that are bound to improve your manuscript. The next thing is for you to include a summary of major changes.

This area consists of a highly specific, dialogue-type list of responses as well as comments. As for any changes, the authors are to indicate the exact location, i.e., paragraph and page numbers, that are in the latest version of the paperwork.

In case of any defense, you should try your best to be very polite and write professionally.

  • Letter to the typesetter

On rare occasions, when the authors have some certain formatting problems about the manuscript, the letter to the typesetter comes in handy. More often than not, this should be prepared at a time when the manuscript is accepted.

Also, it is a proof that the manuscript is being prepared.

pointing handRevising Your Paper

When revising your paper, there are things to consider, and they include:

  • The introduction

Much to the surprise of most reviewers, the introduction of most scientific manuscripts is too long. Unlike so many review articles, the introduction is meant to be concise as well as precise.

Reviewers often advise that the introduction should be trimmed and focus majorly on the hypothesis and aim. Most reviewers also suggest for references that are updated and relevant.

The work of the author is to include these references when revising the manuscript.

  • The methods

The foundation of all scientific manuscripts is an appropriate and accurate methodology. Reviewers are most critical when it comes down to this area. It happens in a way that most of the changes you are to make will involve more:

  1. Data collection
  2. New analysis
  3. More experiments, etc

The fact remains that, sometimes these things have been done appropriately but, they just have to be described clearly in the section. If most of the details requested by the reviewers exceed the word limit, an aspect of this section will be moved.

Bear in mind that they will be moved to what is known as supplementary materials.

  • The results

If changes are to occur here, it is most times closely associated with the comments made on the method section. Rather than repeating the data that have the tables and figures clearly presented, reviewers will most likely remove some of the fine prints.

When you focus on the major features of the specific cohorts, the primary, as well as some of the vital secondary endpoints, would most likely be accepted.

  • The discussion

This is referred to as the most expanded area after a revision. Most critics, specifically the limitations being raised by the reviewers, are addressed in this section.

The latest findings of the study, mostly the new ones, are being compared and contrasted with the already existing literature.

  • The references

As a result of the vast availability of software like the reference manager software, inconsistencies in the reference formats are barely seen lately. Rather, reviewers, as well as editors, tend to ask for newer references that will displace the older ones.

Or, they may add some vital studies. This includes all of the suggested new references.

  • The tables and figures

Because lots of readers prefer to actually read the figures and tables and not the narrative description of the acquired results, here’s what you are to do. The tables and figures are to be left alone with all the abbreviations spelled correctly in the footnote

Also, the reduced resolution of figures is yet another popular critic who must be avoided through the inclusion of high-resolution figures. This should be done in the first round of submission.

pointing handSentences Used When Responding to Reviewers

In responding to the comments made by reviewers, the author may as well decide to respond to the changes that are easy first. This includes:

  • Rewording
  • Inclusion of additional references
  • Additional paragraph, table of figures, and;
  • An appendix

Easy changes like these must be addressed appropriately. The authors must always change the technical errors as the job of the reviewer is to discover these. Errors made in the references must be fixed.

This is because the highly skilled reviewers are aware of history better than the new authors. Professionals in the field know the papers that are correct and in the correct order too.

However, there are more complex changes that need to be done. This includes updating the major hypothesis and key algorithm. Or, redoing a particular experiment. It is specifically essential to change aspects that have been mentioned by diverse reviewers.

This is a result of the fact that repeated comments frequently stand out to editors.

pointing handRejection after a Revision

It is highly understandable that it is quite frustrating to receive a rejection email straight from the editorial office. This hurts more when the author has spent a lot of time in revising the manuscript.

Sometimes, it so happens that some reviewers tend to reject a paper at the first stage of review. On the other hand, the editor may likely offer a chance for its revision.

Some reviewers actually find it unacceptable to have some major methodological problems solved in the manuscript being revised. Yet another weakness will be inconsistent findings.

These are the findings that are between the first and second versions. Thus, the reviewers may likely give some sort of comments during the second review. In fact, there is a proportion of the manuscript that is not accepted after a revision.

This rarely happens, but it can be about fifteen percent in some of these high impact journals. So, if you have no intention of wanting your manuscript to be a part of such a proportion, you should try your best to address all of the comments made by reviewers.

Authors are to cross-check and even proofread all of the revised manuscripts for:

  • Grammar
  • Spelling, and;
  • Consistency

In a case whereby there are major methodological problems that cannot be solved, the authors may likely repeat the entire study.

Or, the author may admit that this is something he or she cannot solve in a particular study. So, further studies are to be warranted.

Besides, if the reviewers find out that the latter response is not acceptable, there is the opportunity to submit the manuscript to yet another journal.

Wrapping It Up

Generally, editors tend to be satisfied when the reviewers are satisfied. This is because they count heavily on the professionalism of the reviewers to arrive at a final decision (Read bout excluding reviewers and suggesting reviewers).

The most vital tip will have to do with carrying out whatever suggestions the reviewers have made. For the author, getting the paper accepted after a revision can be a very hectic process.

It gets much more hectic if the comments to be addressed are very challenging. However, in a bid not to get into more trouble, changes are to be made. To look on the bright side, it is simply a process to improve on your work.

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By Bizhan Romani

Dr. Bizhan Romani has a PhD in medical virology. When it comes to writing an article about science and research, he is one of our best writers. He is also an expert in blogging about writing styles, proofreading methods, and literature.

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