A revise and resubmit is no joke. It may be the piece of writing that begets the most procrastination and anxiety. I think this is because you are not writing just for yourself and an imagined audience, but rather for a real audience of readers who just offered you a critique that was at times scathing, confusing, and overwhelming. Even if you agree with the reviews, the prospect of following the reviewers’ suggestions can seem daunting.
Many of my clients approach me after they’ve had a revise and resubmit on their desk for months. Generally, they’ve been ignoring it, unsure about how to proceed. After working with these clients I’ve developed some general principles and strategies for completing your revise and resubmit.
Thinking About Your Revise and Resubmit
You may be feeling dejected after receiving your manuscript back from the editor. It’s no secret that reviewers’ comments range from helpful to downright nasty. First, acknowledge that you are not your writing. Do not accept the comments offered on your manuscript as an indictment on your intelligence or future ability to produce meaningful work. Remember, many reviewers’ comments are more about them than you. You’ll see this in the multiple suggestions that you include literature you suspect might have been written by your anonymous reviewer.
Second, it’s your manuscript, not the reviewers’. You have the authority to make a case for not following a reviewer’s recommendation. Of course, you must be judicious – you certainly cannot reject your reviews in their entirety. In some cases, a kind and discerning editor will direct you to the reviewer comments you should consider most seriously in your revisions. Heed that advice.
Third, remember that a revise and resubmit means that your manuscript has potential. You may feel paralyzed because the scope of suggested changes is so vast. This paralysis might manifest in three different ways. You may think that there is nothing good about your manuscript, given how lengthy the comments are. If that was the case, your manuscript would have been rejected. You’re probably also wondering how you can possibly incorporate so many suggestions, some of them conflicting. You cringe at the amount of time it will take. Finally, you worry that you’ll miss something, which will result in a rejection of your manuscript. What if you can’t meet the reviewers’ expectations?
These emotions are natural, but they are not insurmountable. With a solid plan, you can complete your revise and resubmit, get it off your desk, and send it back to the editor.
Starting the Revise and Resubmit
The first step in your revise and resubmit is creating a system to organize and review the reviewer’s comments. For this, you’ll need to make a table. Pull up an excel sheet, and make a row for each reviewer (you’ll be expanding this sheet later). Put the first comment in the neighboring cell, directly to the right. You will likely need multiple rows for each reviewer (see the table below).
Once you have all of the comments in a sheet, you can begin to look for any similar comments between reviewers and highlight them in a color of your choosing. You’ll begin to see if there is any consensus between reviewers. Next, organize the comments. Think about doing this in one of two ways. First, you can organize them by section – all the comments on the introduction are grouped together, then literature review/background, discussion, etc. Or they can be grouped thematically – all the comments on your use of a particular theory, comments on how you frame your argument, etc. You can do this on a separate sheet in your excel document, or you can put an abbreviation of some sort next to each comment (for instance, I for introduction, F for framing).
How will you address these comments? I like to make two columns, revise and refute. If you intend to revise, what is your plan? For instance, it can be something simple like agreeing to incorporate a few pieces of literature. Or it could be something more complicated and time consuming like “re-run the analysis for these 3 models using an additional variable and incorporate new findings into results section.” If you intend to refute the suggestion, write down the basis on which you will make your argument. Remember, you can’t just ignore a reviewer’s comments – you have to explain to the reviewers and the editor why you choose to not follow the reviewer’s advice.
|1||Start with reviewer’s 1st comment…||What steps must you take to incorporate this suggestion?|
|Then make a row for each additional comment.||On what grounds will you argue for not following this advice?|
Revise and Resubmit Table
Finally, include in your table some preliminary time estimates. Think about the time commitment for responding to each comment and making the necessary revisions to your revise and resubmit. One of the reasons authors get so overwhelmed when beginning a revise and resubmit is because they have no concrete idea of how long it will take to complete the revisions. Having an idea of how much time you need will bring some certainty to the process, along with peace of mind.
Revise and resubmits are hard, but they are not impossible. We often focus on the worst comments from reviewers and the slow, slow, process of receiving feedback in the first place. What we don’t recognize as often, at least publicly, is that giving serious consideration to your revise and resubmit often results in a stronger manuscript – and a published manuscript.
If you’d like to learn more about working with an editor to complete your revise and resubmit, please click here. An editor can:
- Keep you on track so that you complete your revise and resubmit in a timely fashion – no more ignoring your manuscript for months!
- Help you maintain your voice as you respond to and incorporate myriad suggestions from reviewers.
- Review your writing at multiple stages of the revision process to ensure that you’re making the appropriate revisions without compromising logic, style, or organization. In short, I’ll make sure your manuscript doesn’t become a mess as you cut and add material.
Contact me for a free consultation. We’ll discuss the status of your revise and resubmit, and the next steps we can take to work together to complete the revision process.