Publishing a paper: dealing with the reviewers’ comments

Publishing a paper: dealing with the reviewers’ comments

While there is no formal obligation on PhD students to publish their research, for most it makes good sense. The process involves a number of stages, including selecting the question your paper will address and the journal you will submit to, the writing of the paper and its submission to the chosen journal. The process, however, does not end with submission and the next step is to deal with the journal’s response and any comments made by the reviewers.

There are four possible responses to your submission. The first is that your paper will be rejected. The second is that it will be rejected, but with an invitation to resubmit. The third is that it will be accepted on the condition that you respond to the reviewers’ comments. The fourth, and least likely, is that the journal will accept your article unconditionally. Along with the response, you will probably be sent the comments made by the academics who peer reviewed your paper. How you deal with these will determine whether you get your paper published.

First, it should be emphasised that having a paper rejected is a common experience. While rejection always stings, see it as an opportunity to improve your work and treat the comments as constructive feedback. Remember, however, that while it makes sense to address the reviewers’ comments, a rejection by one journal does not mean that your article would not be accepted by a different one.

Second, responding to the comments does not always mean changing your article. While editing is often necessary, sometimes the appropriate response is to reject, with reasoned explanation, the reviewer’s criticism. If you are unsure then you should discuss the issue with your supervisor, who will have experience of dealing with the review process.

Third, sometimes you may not be able to understand the reviewers’ comments, or one reviewer’s comments may conflict with those of the other reviewer. In such situations you should contact the journal’s editor, who will be able to resolve any uncertainty or contradiction.

Responding to the reviewers’ comments is a normal part of the publishing process. While the process can be frustrating, try to use the comments as constructive feedback and an opportunity to improve your article. If you need help with this process, the PhD consultancy has a wide range of experts who can guide and support you through the publication process.