7 Tips for responding to peer reviewer comments
Responding to peer reviewers’ comments can be quite stressful, as the journal will accept your paper only if you have addressed all peer reviewer comments successfully. These comments 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.
- Take a break: When you receive reviewer comments, it is natural to feel a certain degree of irritation or anger. Take a short break instead of responding to reviewer comments immediately. This will ensure that you come back with a more objective frame of mind and understand the reviewers’ concerns better.
- Give point-by-point responses: Number the reviewers’ points and respond to them sequentially. Use headings such as “Reviewer 1” then “Comment 1.” This makes it easier for the editor/reviewers to follow what you have done. Remember, it is essential to address each and every point that the peer reviewer or journal editor may have raised.
- Provide well-reasoned arguments: You need not agree with each and every one of the reviewers' comments. If you disagree with a specific comment, it's perfectly okay to say so. However, do not simply state your disagreement. Provide as many details as necessary to help the reviewer 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 achieved and mention where you have added this information. You may be considerate and even paste the exact sentences that you have added or modified in the manuscript when following a reviewer’s suggestion, since this can save the editor/reviewer the trouble of switching between files.
- Maintain a polite tone: Remember, the reviewers are critiquing your work, not you. Do not let your responses reflect any bitterness. If you disagree on some point, say so honestly but respectfully, and support your statement with a rational, scientific explanation, citing references from the literature for support.
- Appreciate the reviewers’ effort: Peer reviewers invest their own time in reviewing your manuscript, without pay. For the most part, their intention is to help authors improve their study. Take advantage of their advice. In fact, a long list of detailed reviewer comments usually means that reviewers have spent time evaluating your study and providing constructive feedback. Be sure to thank the reviewers for their time and effort.
- Dealing with conflicting feedback: If you have received conflicting comments from two reviewers, evaluate the feedback, decide which reviewer you agree more with and follow their suggestion. However, acknowledge the comment of the other reviewer as well and justify why you do not agree with it. Alternatively, seek the journal editor’s advice on the conflicting opinions.
Comments from peer reviewers, more often than not, offer an excellent opportunity to improve the quality of your manuscript. Addressing them adequately may increase the chances of acceptance, if not in that journal, elsewhere at least. Armed with the detailed tips for responding to reviewer comments, you will now surely be able to handle the peer review process with more confidence.