How to Respond to Reviewer Comments
Congratulations! The time you have invested in your research has advanced to the process of having a manuscript submitted to a journal. Composition of the manuscript can be a daunting task, and the process can often feel long and arduous. However, even the best journal articles may require several rounds of editing and revision, and this process ensures that you are putting the best, most scientifically sound version of your research out for the world to see.
When you receive a review of your manuscript from the editors, you will be asked to make revisions and reply to their reviews. As an author, you may be tempted to simply make a revision and return the manuscript as asked. However, it is imperative that you write a short response to each of the requested review points you receive so that editors know how, where, and why you did (or did not) choose to make the revision. Here is an example:
“Please include baseline statistics for your data regarding baseline prevalence of Staph. aureus in hospital workers when you discuss hospital-acquired MRSA risks in the second paragraph of your introduction.”
ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE #1:
“We agree that MRSA prevalence figures should be included, and have inserted them in the sentence directly following the introduction of this topic. We also integrated the prevalence into our discussion section to address how rates of colonization in the general population may affect our data(see page 8, lines 12-20).
ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE #2:
“We do not feel that including MRSA prevalence figures would be appropriate, as our research includes a population which differs greatly from those who have been studied in the literature for MRSA colonization. As such, we instead have added this fact, that our “population has a higher colonization rate than the general population at baseline, and MRSA prevalence in the cited in the literature would not accurately reflect our control populations.”
Remember, when the reviewers ask you to make a revision, it is up to you as to how to make the revision—it is after all your manuscript! However, if you do not believe a revision is warranted, it is up to you to make a strong case as to why, in addition to addressing the point in your manuscript. If the reviewers had a question about something in your manuscript, there’s a good chance your audience may have the same questions.
The goal of the revision process is again to make your manuscript the strongest possible reflection of the hard work and dedication you achieved in conducting your research, and offer your readers the most clear, concise, and thorough presentation possible. The article that will be published will be a permanent testament to the work you performed, and may very well introduce a new scientific concept or thought to the world. Though it may seem tedious, creating the strongest possible manuscript prior to publication will pay dividends in the future.
In closing, here is a brief list of “Do’s and Do Not’s” when replying to reviewer feedback:
- Respond to each bulleted review response under a separate heading. This way, the editorial team will know that you saw each point they wanted to address, and know your thought process behind any changes you made.
- Be an advocate for your own work. If you strongly believe that a revision you have been asked to make is not warranted, please clearly explain why, and consider offering an alternative way of stating the point in your manuscript so that the reasoning behind not making the revision is more clearly elicited. This will likely satisfy the reviewer and your intended future audience, who may have the same concern. If the requested revision is imperative to getting your manuscript published, feel free to contact the editors, who should be willing to discuss the requested revision and reach a compromise.
- If a revision seems unclear, or does not appear to make sense, ask for clarification from the editors. This will pay off in the long run, in that you will be able to make more accurate revisions on the first round and potentially avoid subsequent rounds of revisions.
- DO NOT simply reply, “All changes made as requested,” because you should discuss each revision individually. Again, the editors want to know that you have seen, acknowledged, and agree with (or disagree with) the revisions requested. We want to know how you made the changes, or why you do not believe the change was warranted. Bottom line—communication is key!
- DO NOT simply reply with a one word answer to a requested revision. This is only appropriate if the reviewer asks for very succinct change (e.g., “Please introduce TMP-SMX the first time as Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole.” or “Please add a comma between the two clauses in line 87”).
- DO NOT take requested revisions as an indication that your work is bad! To the contrary, when reviewers assess your manuscript, they already believe that you have produced something that could be publishable, and want to assist you in creating the strongest work possible. We are here to help, and will work with you every step of the way to produce a publishable journal article of which you can be proud, and from which the scientific community can benefit for years to come!
In closing, please feel free to contact the MSRJ if you have any questions regarding how to reply to the revisions that have been requested of your manuscript, or any other questions you may have regarding the editorial process.
The Editors at the Medical Student Research Journal