Revising the Manuscript for Publication

Once the journal receives your manuscript, they will contact you with a tracking number that you can use to monitor the progress of your manuscript throughout the publication process.

Within several days of receipt, the editor handling your manuscript will typically send it out for review by two or three reviewers and then wait for them to submit their reviews. Specific criteria for review vary from journal to journal however most forms include a request for an overall assessment of the manuscript:

  • accept
  • accept with minor revision
  • accept with major revision
  • reject

and solicit information concerning the originality, significance/impact, and quality of the science and its written presentation. Reviewers, whose service is completely voluntary and uncompensated, are usually asked to complete their review within a two-week period. However some reviewers may need more than two weeks (they may be busy, ill, on vacation, etc. at the time they were contacted) and some individuals simply don’t respond. If all of the reviews aren’t returned within the required time period, the editor will often contact the reviewer to see if they need additional time in order to complete their review. If the editor feels it is unlikely that the reviewer will ultimately provide a useful review, he/she may send the paper out for reviewer to another person which of course (which means the paper will be delayed an additional two weeks beyond the original review period). Once the editor has all of the reviews in hand, he/she will study them and make a determination regarding the publishability of the work and the suitability of the paper for publication in their particular journal.

The Editor makes a judgment concerning publication of the article based on the submitted reviews. Often the Editor will receive a mix of both positive and negative reviews. If a mix is received, the Editor may request additional reviews from other experts. Sometimes if the paper is in the direct arena of the Editor’s technical expertise, he/she may choose to act as an additional reviewer in order to resolve the situation.

Revise Again

Once the Editor has made a decision regarding the disposition of the article, they will notify the authors of their decision and provide verbatim copies of the reviews, rendered anonymous, that he/she used to make this decision. The majority of papers submitted for consideration of publication require some degree of revision before their publication.

When you receive your reviews, don’t take them personally. If you receive highly critical reviews of your paper, don’t take them personally. If your article is rejected, try not to take it personally. (Note there is a recurrent message here.) Don’t telephone or e-mail the editor to yell and scream at him/her. Put the reviews away, take a deep, cleansing breath, and go for a nice long walk. Wait at least a day or two before you pick up the reviews again. If your paper was rejected, read the reviews carefully and identify what the deficiency is that led the editor to conclude that he/she would have to decline further consideration of the paper. It may be something you can address such as poor quality writing or a mismatch between your paper and the journal’s readership. If so, then you should be able to make beneficial changes that will facilitate your article’s publication elsewhere.

If your paper is still under consideration for publication but you have been asked to respond to the reviewers’ comments, you will need to prepare and submit a document detailing your response to all of points raised by the reviewers, a revised manuscript, and a new cover letter. Depending on the extent of revision requested by the editor and/or reviewers, these documents may only be reviewed by the editor or they may be sent back out to the original reviewers. It is important to know this so you understand how important it is to clearly identify what changes you have made, why, and where those changes have been made in the manuscript (line and page number). When you do make significant changes (a sentence or more) to the manuscript, be sure to include the original and revised statements and reference to the line and page number on which they appear in the original and revised manuscripts so the reviewer doesn’t have to search through them to find the changes. For example, “We have revised the text at the top of p. 2 in the original manuscript to properly credit this work: “Subsequently, XXX et al.[8] demonstrated that…”

In revising your manuscript, you do not have to make every change that the reviewers request. You may disagree with the reviewers on one or more point. In fact, it is highly likely that you will disagree with one or more of the reviewers’ comments. However, if you do disagree, you will need to thoughtfully, constructively, and dispassionately lay out the reasons why you disagree with the reviewer. Whatever you do, if you want your article published, don’t attack the reviewer personally. The following is an example of how you might deal with a situation like this in preparing your response to the reviewers: “We respectfully point out that we already credited XXX et al. on p. 7 (this is reference 13 in the paper) of the original manuscript. We have made as much of a comparison as we can at this stage between the [properties] of our films and those prepared by others using [similar approach]. In terms of the other suggested references none are relevant: We did not investigate the effect of temperature, so YYY et al. is not relevant to the present paper. Finally, ZZZ et al. describes [properties] observed during the initial stages of film growth (films about 110 nm thick) and therefore is not relevant to our work.”