Writing: Addressing reviewer comments

I have a paper which has been floating around for a few years. This precious paper has been abused by reviewers and editors of various journals, although so far only one journal has suggested that the theoretical development is inadequate. This because ‘intersectionality’ was not recognised as a valid theoretical framework. While these comments were bruising, the depth of the reviews I received from said journal were impressive. My poor little paper had been taken seriously and rightly critiqued on a number of levels. Although a ‘reject’ these comments and the time taken by the editors and the reviewers to read the paper with such engagement inspired me to work on it (again). To the anonymous reviewers, I’m sending a thank you out to you – for your time and willingness to critically engage with my work.

Now the paper has come back with R&R and the comments range from technical (grammar) to more oblique requests for improved analysis. I started out feeling hard done by. This paper has been worked on for a few years now and never rushed. This is my usual response to reviewer comments. Read, fume, read, fume some more, then relax. My strategy for addressing comments to copy each comment into a table and in an adjacent column how I will address them. This then forms the basis of my response to reviewers.

Again a familiar pattern emerges, but this time self-induced confusion is emerging. The comments are not unfair at all. They are quite appropriate, but too opaque and fuzzy to know exactly what the reviewers and the editor want. Two short paragraphs are leading to a rewrite of the paper and now I am tied in knots. This is my own doing, I’ve likely over thought the comments. I am looking at the paper and not quite remembering what it was about in the first place or whether I like the paper or not. Now I think the reviewers were being kind. There is so much more they could have picked up on.

This precious, long abused paper, is my first effort at sole authoring. There is no one bounce ideas off. No one to do the tricky parts (!) or to proof read. No team to work with. It’s an isolating experience and an unfamiliar one. A kind friend has offered to help – to be a critical friend and give some feedback before I send the paper back to the journal. One day this paper will see the light of day and the feedback of friends, reviewers and editors will have shaped the story it tells. Rejection is part of publication, and this I keep reminding myself of as I go back to the manuscript and work out what on earth I am trying to say!


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