Responding to Input from Others

As authors, you may dread receiving reviewer comments asking for major revisions. It’s daunting to rework something for which you have already taken great pains. But don’t be tempted to give up. Most often, the final outcome is worth the effort. Here are some pointers on how to respond to such comments.

  • Photo of two ducks scrutinizing the cameraTake 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.
  • Articulate point-by-point responses: Number the reviewers’ points and respond to them sequentially. If you’re required to respond to your reviewers, this makes it easier for others to follow what you have done. Even if your reviewers never see your responses, this is an effective way to inventory their advice and make sure that you’ve evaluated all of it.
  • Create well-reasoned responses to input: If you do not agree with a reviewer’s comment, that’s only fair. However, do not simply disagree. Justify this disagreement, to yourself or to the reviewer, by providing as many details as necessary to help any reader understand your line of reasoning. Where possible, cite published studies to support your argument.
  • 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.
  • Watch your tone: Remember, the reviewers are critiquing your work, not you. Do not let their feedback color any future interactions you have with them. If you disagree on some point, say so honestly but respectfully, and support your statement with a rational explanation.
  • Appreciate the reviewers’ work: Peer reviewers invest their own time in reviewing your writing. Their intention is to help you improve your writing, and hopefully earn higher grades as a result. Take advantage of their advice. In fact, a long list of detailed reviewer comments usually means that reviewer has spent considerable time evaluating your work and providing constructive feedback. Be sure to thank reviewers for their consideration and effort.