Revising and responding

Once you manuscript has come back from reviewers you may be given the opportunity to revise it in accordance with the reviewer comments. You will usually receive a letter from the editor who handled your manuscript outlining the changes they would like you to make and links to the reviewer reports. This letter usually contains information on how to return your revised manuscript including instructions on how to highlight the changes made and when you need to return the revised version.

TIP: journals have different revision deadlines which vary from as little as a few weeks to three months depending on the revisions that need to be made. If you do not think you will be able to return a revised manuscript in the allotted time tell the editor immediately. They should be able to offer you an extension but it is best to discuss this with them as early as possible.

When revising your manuscript and responding to peer review comments you must:

  • Thank the reviewers and editors for their time and comments.
  • Address all points raised by the editor and reviewers.
  • Describe the major revisions to your manuscript in your response letter followed by point-by-point responses to the comments raised.
  • Perform any additional experiments or analyses the reviewers recommend (unless you feel that they would not make your paper better; if so, please provide sufficient explanation as to why you believe this to be the case in your response letter).
  • Provide a polite and scientific rebuttal to any points or comments you disagree with. Remember if your manuscript is sent for a second round of peer review the reviewers will see this letter too.
  • Differentiate between reviewer comments and your responses in your letter.
  • Clearly show the major revisions in the text, either with a different color text, by highlighting the changes, or with Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature. This is in addition to describing the changes in your point by point cover letter.
  • Return the revised manuscript and response letter within the time period allotted by the editor.

The following is an example as to how to respond to a reviewer comment:

Reviewer comment: “In your analysis of the data you have chosen to use a somewhat obscure fitting function (regression). In my opinion, a simple Gaussian function would have sufficed. Moreover, the results would be more instructive and easier to compare to previous results.

Response in agreement with the reviewer: “We agree with the reviewer’s assessment of the analysis. Our tailored function does make it impossible to fully interpret the data in terms of the prevailing theories. In addition, in its current form, we agree it would be difficult to tell that this measurement constitutes a significant improvement over previously reported values. We have therefore re-analyzed the data using a Gaussian fitting function.”

Response disagreeing with the reviewer: “We agree with the reviewer that a simple Gaussian fit would facilitate comparison with the results of other studies. However, our tailored function allows for the analysis of the data in terms of the Smith model [Smith et al, 1998]. We have added two sentences to the paper (page 3, paragraph 2) to explain the use of this function and Smith’s model.

Note that in both comments (agreeing and disagreeing) the author is polite and shows respect for the reviewer’s opinion. Also, in both circumstances the author makes a change to the manuscript that addresses the reviewer’s question.