So you’ve gotten a Revise and Resubmit. The reviews are mixed. The editor points some things out as needing addressing, but has left a lot to you. What do you do?
A. Have a moment of relief that you got an R&R rather than a “never send us this again”.
B. Rail briefly and privately about reviewers who didn’t understand you and who may have been drawn from the Wheel of Peer Review.
C. Then make your revisions and write your response.
The format of your response should be as follows:
1. Profusely thank the editor. Summarize the main changes you have made and the main concerns you did not address with explanations of why you did not address them (misunderstanding you have clarified, lack of data, etc.)
2. Thank Reviewer #1. Possibly point out anything specific and major that you found especially helpful.
Go through Point-by-point. In some fields you will need to copy and paste each reviewer point and then follow with your response. In other fields it is enough to paraphrase. In still other fields, it is enough to respond to comments by number, but be aware that if you do this, the reviewer may have to dig up his or her original comments, which may be less polite than your paraphrase.
Be polite. Occasionally a reviewer will say something idiotic. Apologize for being unclear and do your best to clarify their concern. Sometimes it won’t need clarification, but explain anyway. Whether the comments are stupid or brilliant, you should be gracious no matter what.
Address every single point. Do not leave out points, even if you are unable to address them. Leaving things out will irritate your reviewer. If you cannot address the point say, “Unfortunately, I cannot address this point for these reasons. Here are my other thoughts on this, thus proving I took your point seriously.” If you can provide additional information that sort of gets at the question even if it doesn’t exactly address the question, feel free to include that, acknowledging that it only sort of gets at the question.
When you address points, say where in the paper you have addressed them. Include page numbers, section numbers, and footnote numbers. If you already addressed them but their eye slipped over where in the text you did, it is enough to state where in the paper they were addressed. (Do not point out that they were addressed before. Just point to where they were addressed.)
If you just do what they told you to do, it is often enough to say, “Done. See page 3.” or “This has been added to footnote 15.” Short is nice if you’re agreeing with them and able to do what they ask of you.
3. Repeat step 2 for reviewers 2 through N, where N is the number of reviewers.
If you have anything particularly difficult to impart, address it in a separate confidential letter to the editor. Be polite.
Double check once you’re done that all your page number and footnote references in the letters match the ones in the paper. Double check you’re always polite.
And that’s all I have on my mind. Did I miss anything important? Have any “Don’t Do This” horror stories?