3 Tips for making revision decisions based on reviewer comments

positive reviewIn a recent TAA webinar, “Responding to Reviewers’ Comments”, Mark Pedretti shared three key elements to responding to reviewer comments when presented with the opportunity to revise and resubmit a journal article. In addition to sizing up the editors and writing the response letter, Pedretti shared advice on how to evaluate the reviewer comments to make revision decisions that improve your submission.

Tip #1 – Categorize reviewer comments

Pedretti states, “A common way of categorizing reviewer comments is to place them into three broad categories.” As you read the feedback from reviewers, begin with a broad pass approach to categorizing the comments. Determine which of the three categories below best describes each comment in the review.

  1. Those that if addressed and included in a manuscript would make it better
  2. Those that would have a neutral effect
  3. Those that would hurt the paper (or those you disagree with)

For those comments in the first category, address them and document how you resolved the issue noted in the review. For those in the third category, address each and identify why you have chosen not to implement the suggested change.

The bottom line, says Pedretti, “You don’t have to respond to every comment; make decisions about which ones are worth addressing.”

“You don’t have to respond to every comment; make decisions about which ones are worth addressing.”

Tip #2 – Choose whether to address items that would have a neutral effect

For the comments that fall into the second category – ones that would have a neutral effect on the paper, if applied – Pedretti offers two pieces of advice for best results.

First, “Pick Your Battles! Does the change really matter that much?” Ask yourself whether it is easier to simply make the suggested change and show respect for the reviewer’s feedback by doing so or if the effort in doing so is worth the fight. If the suggested change will not have a negative impact on your manuscript and will be easy to complete, it’s probably best to just make the change. Pedretti advises, “Don’t be defensive or argue too many comments or critiques, especially the ones that don’t matter.”

“Don’t be defensive or argue too many comments or critiques, especially the ones that don’t matter.”

Second, some feedback may question your results or analysis and require additional efforts. With those items, Pedretti suggests that you “do your due diligence – run or re-run the suggested analysis”. If the analysis can be done with minimal effort and cost, running or re-running the suggested analysis to satisfy the reviewer’s curiosity or to validate your reported findings is likely worth the time it takes to do so.

Tip #3 – Use the feedback to your advantage

The peer review process, especially one that ends in a request for you to revise and resubmit the work, is a positive one that is designed to help you generate the best version of your work. Pedretti suggests that you “use reviewers’ feedback to imagine how your writing is being received.” Even if you feel as though the reviewer’s feedback is unwarranted or demonstrates a lack of understanding of your work, you can use it to identify another perspective on your topic or writing and make any necessary revisions to appropriately reach other audience members with that perspective.

“Use reviewers’ feedback to imagine how your writing is being received.”

The entire presentation is available in TAA’s Presentations on Demand library.


Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.