In the last post, we talked about the emotions you might feel when reading over reviewer’s comments and how to get organized to start revising. In this post, I’ll discuss how to start revising, from developing a plan to beginning to write.
There are several questions you should consider before beginning work on your article revisions. Luckily, if you complete the table I included in the previous blog post, you should be able to answer these questions fairly easily.
What is the Scope of the Revisions?
The answer to this question may not fully reveal itself until you are well into the revision process. Even so, you’ll definitely have an idea of how much work needs to be done after you read through the reviewers’ comments. You may discover that the majority of comments coalesce around a similar theme, or that they’re incredibly varied. In thinking about the scope of the revisions, you may be concerned about whether you will end up with a completely new article, and (related) if you should start from scratch.
There are generally two overarching critiques reviewers make. The first is concerning your framing or approach. This can include the theory you use, the wording of your research question and argument, or how you set up the puzzle you intend to solve in your manuscript. For instance, reviewers might argue that they don’t agree with your conclusions or how you use a particular theoretical framework. The second concerns how you collect, analyze, and present your data. Comments may include questions about your sample size, the research methodology you’ve used, the variables you’ve selected, etc. Generally, the former makes for more extensive revisions than the latter, because it requires you to re-think the foundation of your argument and in many cases return to the literature.
Where Should I Start?
As you think about how to start revising, you may be inclined to start at the beginning and just plow through your revisions. Don’t! You might also wonder if you should start with the most significant changes or the easiest changes? Remember, some changes will create other changes. Rather than thinking about your revisions in terms of easiest to most difficult, think about how the changes will relate to one another. For instance, if you re-run your analysis, your results section will change. If you introduce a new variable into your models, your methods and results sections will need revision – but your literature review will likely not. This is why it’s very important to think about the order in which you will complete your revisions – don’t try to rush through that process.
Of course, there will be some changes that are fairly cosmetic. There may be citations that are improperly formatted or a piece of literature you didn’t mention. These are very easy to complete, and you may want to do them first, simply for the satisfaction of checking a task off your to-do list. Don’t, however, use this as a procrastination technique to delay the substantive work that must be done.
When Can I Finally Start Writing?
Revising is an overwhelming, messy process. That’s why it pays to keep your reviewers’ comments organized. You want to know how the comments relate to one another, but also how those comments influence how you proceed with revising your paper. It might seem like there is a lot of work to be done before you can even start writing. That’s because there is. The more groundwork you lay before writing, however, the easier the writing will be. Go through your manuscript and mark the parts that need revision. Go through each paragraph, and write a short note indicating how the paragraph will change. Then, mark the order in which you’ll complete the revisions. I personally think this process is easier if you print your manuscript out, but some writers do appreciate having a digital version of their revision plan.
Now, you’re ready to write! You have not only organized all of the reviewers’ critiques and suggestions, you’ve also developed a plan for responding to those comments and revising your manuscript. This is already half the battle.