You might only be reading this if you were fortunate enough to make it through the first round of peer-review and are now glaring at peer-review comments. First and foremost, always start off by presuming that the reviewers have your best interest in mind. Next, remember that the primary goal of the peer-review process is to verify and strengthen your research work1. It is incredibly uncommon to reach the peak of “having published” in a top journal without first having to make it through the peer-review process. Even seasoned academicians and researchers could feel anxious when they receive a message with the subject line “Revisions received.”
The correct course of action when wondering how to respond to peer-review comments should be to first congratulate yourself and then read the whole document. Here we discuss tips and advice to help you react appropriately to peer-review comments.
Do’s for responding to peer-review comments
- Always re-read the comments several times before responding or reacting to them. The peer reviewer’s comments will probably cause the author(s) to feel strongly at first.
- Adopt a step-back approach and proceed as follows: Read-Relax-Read-Reason-Respond. Step back for a few days to digest reviewers’ comments and, after reviewing it again with a fresh pair of eyes, discuss it with your co-authors before you respond.
- To build momentum, authors may choose simple comments to respond to first. Nevertheless, this is just a suggestion and may depend on the author.
- Identify concerned areas, such as sections that have received comments from many reviewers and need to be redone. This enables you to organize your ideas and fully comprehend peer-review comments.
- If a comment contains various points, break it up into several responses and address each point separately.
- Seek review from peers and experts in the field to better interpret the peer-review comments.
- Before writing down the responses, brainstorm and discuss with your co-authors to accurately frame your response.
- Even if you decide not to follow some of the reviewer’s suggestions, you MUST ALWAYS respond to all of the reviewer’s comments. All peer-review comments must be addressed, and the response must be suitably phrased.
- If the peer-review comments require additional references to be added, include them; reviewers occasionally make suggestions for references that are more recent, pertinent, or helpful to the overall research.
- Whether agreeing or disagreeing with peer-review comments, always support your claims with credible data and, if necessary, provide additional supplementary information while highlighting the section of the manuscript that is of concern2.
- Use a polite and cordial tone when disagreeing with any peer-review comments.
- Begin the response document by expressing gratitude to the reviewers for their time, insightful criticism, and consideration of the manuscript3.
- Provide the reviewers with a point-by-point response and emphasize the modifications made to the manuscript by underlining or submitting separate files (edited and unedited).
- Check your response for potential grammatical, linguistic, and conceptual errors several times.
- Always double-check that the manuscript modifications are highlighted accurately in the appropriate places. For instance, mention the page and line numbers.
Dont’s for responding to peer-review comments
- Avoid defending each and every comment. Proceed with the suggested adjustments if the peer reviewer’s suggestion is for a slight adjustment to the manuscript that would not change the essence of the article.
- Pay attention to all the reviewers’ suggestions; if you cannot incorporate some, politely mention the reason for disapproval.
- Never take criticism from peers personally. Keep in mind that the reviewer’s suggestions are intended to significantly raise the standard of your manuscript as a whole.
- Avoid using a stern tone or negative language while responding to peer-review comments, such as “strongly disagree,” “do not accept,” and similar expressions.
- Never refuse a reviewer’s request to provide data or raw files.
- Don’t respond with general statements; always support your claims with evidence from relevant literature. If the primary data is insufficient to support the hypothesis or study design, add supplemental data.
- Be willing to make changes to the document and don’t argue with the reviewers; if several reviewers advise modifications in one section, it is preferable to alter or improve that section, depending on the amount of work needed.
For researchers, revising a manuscript can be a challenging undertaking, especially when the journal provides them with numerous pages of peer-review comments. Any author could feel quite overburdened and even depressed as a result. The first step, however, is to acknowledge that modifications are frequently necessary during the peer-review process and are essential for publication. As an author, it is your responsibility to develop effective strategies on how to respond to peer-review comments and implement their advice. It is useful to keep in mind that both you and the reviewers are working to make the manuscript better. Correctly interpreting the remarks, making the necessary adjustments, and responding appropriately presents challenges. The secret to a successful resubmission is to show your referees that you appreciate them without compromising the standard of your study. This article hopes to help you navigate these points to make your job easier.
1. Wong, G. L.-H. Tips for Responding to Reviewers’ Comments–from an Editor’s or Reviewer’s Points of View. Gut Liver 13, 7–10 (2019)
2. Elsevier. 3 top tips for responding to reviewer comments on your manuscript. Authors’ Update https://www.elsevier.com/connect/authors-update/3-top-tips-for-responding-to-reviewer-comments-on-your-manuscript
3. 9 Tips for responding to comments by peer reviewers. Editage Insights https://www.editage.com/insights/tips-for-responding-to-comments-by-peer-reviewers (2014)