How to revise your paper

Despite the advantages of the peer review process in providing validation, quality control and added value in the form of constructive feedback, the whole process can evoke much anguish amongst authors. There is a fear that it may be impossible to be truly impartial, that the process causes a long delay, and that comments are often too brief to be helpful. Much more serious is the fact that the review process comes too late in the authoring cycle - the research has been done, and it may be too late to change the research design or collect new data.

Read here about the advantages and disadvantages of the peer review process.

However, given that you want to revise your paper (there is always the option not to if the required revisions are too great), the following are some points to bear in mind when receiving the comments:

  • Relax! you are in the publishing process. People have invested time to make your paper better. You are now a potential contributor to the journal.
  • Don't take criticism personally. Remember, the peer review process is blind, you don't know who your reviewers are and they don't know who you are.
  • View the comments, and the work required, as feedback, not criticism.
  • Put a bit of distance between yourself and the comments. Put them away for a few days, then come back to them. You will then be in a better frame of mind to appreciate exactly what is being said.
  • Having established what is required, and the time scale given you by the editor, write to the editor agreeing to carry out the revisions within the time-scale (if necessary, negotiate a longer time scale). Clarify any ambiguity or contradiction in the reviewers' comments, e.g. if one has said that the article is too long, the other that it is too short.
  • Having agreed a timescale, stick to it. As with any process of revision, you need to decide in what order you are going to tackle the amendments. You may wish to work through the paper chronologically, by reviewer, or perhaps attempt the more minor revisions before the substantive ones. If you are required to assemble more data, or read new literature, then you need to make sure that you allow time for this in your revision time-table.
  • If major revisions are required, tackle these. Don't fob off the reviewers by trying to hide the fact you haven't done what you were asked to do behind mere stylistic alterations.
  • Save your revised paper as a separate draft (nameoffile_rev1.doc etc.). You may want to refer to previous drafts.
  • Once you have revised the paper, proof read and spell check it again, carefully.
  • Write a covering letter to the editor, stating what you have done (separately for each reviewer), and if you haven't done what the reviewers have asked, provide detailed reasons why not, and amending your paper as appropriate. It will make it easier for your reviewers you can also include their comments as in the examples (should be a simple cut and paste job).
  • Always retain a courteous tone in responding to reviewers; thank them for positive comments, and respond graciously to criticism as in the examples below. Remember, publishing is always about relationships, and courtesy is appreciated!

Case study 1: article for Health, Information and Libraries Journal

Case study 2: Paper for Management Decision on mergers and acquisitions

Case study 3: Paper for Management Decision on policy commitment

Exercise - Carry out your own Peer Review