“Publish or Perish” is a wise old PhD/Academia proverb. As academics we are expected to publish our research, which involves tackling reviewer comments…. While I completely understand the purpose of peer-review, it doesn’t mean that receiving comments on my publications aren’t at times overwhelming, disheartening, or frustrating. However, I have worked out somewhat of a system for working through them.
Step 1. When I receive the dreaded email with the ‘outcome of review’, I briefly look at what is said (most commonly for me MAJOR REVISIONS REQUIRED) and then I shut the email and leave it for a day. Just so that I can sit with the idea of having to do major revisions and not attempt to address these while the disheartened feelings are fresh.
Step 2. After a day or two has passed, I copy and paste all of the reviewer comments into a table in a word document. I have a column for the reviewer comment, a column for which part of the manuscript the comment relates to (e.g. line number or general section), and then a column for my response to the comments. I should note here, that this is when I am first author, and therefore am doing the majority of the edits.
Step 3. Read the revision instructions carefully. Different journals have different ways to outline the revisions (e.g. track changes, highlighted, no highlight etc.).
Step 4. Tackle the ‘easy’ revisions first. Now that all the comments are in a table it is easy to see which comments are easy changes (formatting, spelling, word changes etc.). I work through these first. Ensuring that I am highlighting the comments that I address as I go. It feels good to have comments ticked off, even if they are the easy ones.
Step 5. I then set out a rough plan for how I will address the remaining comments, and I don’t try to get through them quickly. I typically set myself a goal of addressing one major comment per day. I find that this means I am not overwhelmed by the work required.
Step 6. Make notes either in the table or as comments on the document of the reviewer suggestions that I am unsure how to address. I then send these to my co-authors to ask for their suggestions.
Step 7. Ensure that the responses I have put in the table to address the reviewer comments are worded appropriately. Ensuring that I provide a detailed response, and if I am not making a suggested change, I am very clear as to why. I also triple check ensuring that I have not missed any comment.
Step 8. Cross fingers and hit submit on the resubmission.