What’s been happening with that
manuscript in your pub plan? First draft written – Check; two rounds of
review and revision – Check; approval by the pub steering committee – Check;
formatted for the journal style – Check; submitted online as an
original research article – Check; editor’s decision received – check.
Finally! You’ve been logging in to the journal website every day for a
while now to follow the status of your article and checking your email
carefully. And at long last (on average about 6 to 8 weeks), a peer review
decision has been made.
What could the decision be? “Accepted
with no changes”? That’s most likely to happen “in your dreams.” “Rejected” as
it is “not suitable for publication in its present form?” Outright rejection is
more likely than outright acceptance, but unless there are serious flaws in the
study design, data analysis, interpretation of results or the writing itself,
the most common reason for rejection is that the article was not submitted to
an appropriate journal (that means a reviewer or editor thought that the
article would either not be of interest to the readership or is not within the
scope of the journal’s editorial policies).
That leaves “accepted for
publication providing the manuscript is revised” as the response to
reviewer/editor comments, and correcting any errors that are present. The
needed revisions may be minor or major. So there you have it. The journal wants
to publish the article, but will only do so if certain changes are made and
Next steps? For articles that I
managed, the next step was to forward the editor’s decision to all stakeholders
(including those on the pub steering committee) and the corresponding author,
even though he or she would already be aware of the journal’s decision. We
would then write a cover note, attach the decision letter, include reviewers’
comments and the manuscript draft.
Maybe your pub planning software
automates these steps for you. Most of the cover notes I’ve written go
something like this: “Great news! The article has been accepted pending
revisions. I will send you a draft revision and point-by-point responses to the
reviewer and editor comments for your review and comment.” You ought to include
the dates on which they can expect your drafts and the dates for their expected
Getting started with the
revisions? In nearly every instance, I’ve found that editors and reviewers want
to help you publish the best research papers possible. I’ve had a variety of
experiences with peer review, but each manuscript was improved by the process.
Even when a paper was rejected, the comments on how the manuscript could be
improved were very helpful in the changes made prior to resubmission to another
If your paper was accepted with
major revisions, then it has some good content but needs a lot of work in one
area or another. Maybe additional data are needed, or a description or
discussion needs to be expanded. If it was accepted with minor revisions, the
paper is generally good, except for a few minor points. Change these, and it is
likely to be published.
reviews and comments carefully several times before you start to write. This
often avoids some silly mistakes or misinterpretations. I’ve often found that
the reviewers didn’t actually say what, on first reading, I thought they said.
Do the easy stuff (grammar, spelling, references, and simple edits) first, and
then move on to the more complex aspects. For such minor changes, you can state
in your resubmission cover letter that “all stylistic and grammatical
suggestions were incorporated into the manuscript.”
As you do
the revisions, you can write what you’ve done
under the comment that the reviewer made. The point-by-point response
letter is important. It’s your chance to explain how you’ve incorporated the
editors’ and reviewers’ comments – and don’t forget to thank those involved for
their time, careful review, and constructive comments.
be realistic. Sometimes, you’ll get a comment or request that’s seems
unreasonable, or is just wrong. In this case, first make sure you’re absolutely
certain that you’re in the right. Did you misstate something, or was your
phrasing unclear or confusing to the reviewer? If this is the case, explain
where you think the comment “came from,” revise the text accordingly, and move
reviewer was actually wrong, be polite and thorough in your response. State why
you disagree with the reviewer and provide evidence to back this up. A
reference doesn’t hurt. You might consider adding a reference to the paper’s
bibliography. In most cases, editors will accept this. The final decision to
accept will most likely be made by the editor who was handling the manuscript.
Only very rarely have manuscripts that I resubmitted gone back to the original
reviewers. Meanwhile, remember that while the editor has to know what you’ve
done to the paper, your responses to the peer review comments should be found
in your manuscript.
you are finished revising and responding. Wait a day before resubmitting. Then
review the comments to make sure you addressed them all and check the
manuscript for consistency. If everything still looks OK, get any internal and
author approvals that you need…and resubmit. Good Luck!