How to respond to reviewers’ comments

Responding to reviewer critiques can be one of the most difficult steps in the publication process. Your strategy can be a game changer here: a thoughtful, clear and effective response to the reviewers can not only speed up the publication process but it also gives you a chance to improve your work, to show professionalism, and eventually to gain advocates to your work. On this page, we give you 6 key pieces of advice to navigate the reviewers’ reports and to get the most out of their feedback. All pieces of advice begin with sharing insights to help you keep a professional and constructive approach to the reviews and your work, followed by practical tips for developing your response. (We also provide links to additional templates you could use.)

Be grateful to your reviewers – editors face increasing difficulties finding reviewers, and reviewers have invested their time in evaluating your work and providing their expertise, in most cases without any compensation.

To keep in mind: In the increasingly voluminous and diverse scholarly fields, editors often experience difficulties finding reviewers with relevant expertise who are willing to contribute their time to read and assess your work – often without any academic reward.

Tips: Having your work get through this bottleneck is enough reason to celebrate – so start your response by acknowledging this effort and thanking the reviewers and editors for their time in evaluating your work.

Give space and time to your emotions

To keep in mind: In some cases, you might need to give yourself and your team a little time and space to calm down after having gone through the emotional roller coaster of reading your review reports. By doing so, you can save yourself from sending out an impulsive and heated response, and demonstrate your professionalism despite the other side sometimes not showing theirs.

Tips: To this end, you can even take William Stafford Noble’s advice and prepare two versions of the response: a “venting version” where you and your co-authors can channel your frustration and then later an official response where you professionally addressed the critiques raised by the reviewers or editors and show superior communications skills.

Respond in the same way as you want to be responded to. Keep the standards of the dialogue high and make sure you address all reviewer suggestions

To keep in mind: Keep a constructive, collegial and respectful written dialogue with your reviewers. Keeping an open dialogue to evolve ideas and to make the final publication stronger had been the original function of peer review (instead of gatekeeping) and many reviewers still consider such written conversations as a primary motivation to engage in peer review. This also includes making your reviewers feel heard. After all, nobody wants to be ignored after voluntarily investing deep attention in other colleagues’ works.

Tips: In practice, this means addressing and clearly answering every single point of the reviewsBy doing so, you take every single chance to make your publication stronger. Even if there might be changes you will not include in this paper (see advice nr. 5 below), you can show respect by acknowledging them and even keeping them in mind in your future work.

For maximum efficiency, make both your comments and the changes clear and easy to follow

To keep in mind: From a distance of several days, weeks or even months, your reviewer may not remember all concerns they raised. It is thus essential to make your responses to reviewers self-contained.


Other top tips to achieve clarity and speed up the process:


  • In Christina N’s words“The reviewer or editor shouldn’t have to peruse the manuscript to find a change you made. So, instead of “We’ve made the change. See page 5, line 24 of the revised paper”, write “We’ve changed [original text] to [edited text] (page 5, line 24).
  • Your response should make clear references to the different files included with your revised submission. It should contain the following elements, with clear references to each other: cover letter, list of responses, manuscript with track changes, and the clean version of your manuscript with clear versioning conventions (source).
  • Listing all the comments of each reviewer separately and assigning actions to them (e.g. COMMENT1 → ACTION 1) will show that you took the reviewers’ advice seriously, explain how you implemented the changes, and make their and the editors’ work easier (source).
  • For easier readability, you can separate the review comments and your responses by using a different typography. You can explain these typographical conventions in the introduction to your response (source).
  • In your response, strive to be concise and to-the-point but still clearly explain how you made the changes, instead of just saying ”accepted” or “corrected” (source).

Dare to disagree and defend where you feel it is really important

To keep in mind: Responding to reviews often includes elements of disagreement and negotiation between the author(s) and the reviewer(s). You don’t need to accept and execute all the changes suggested in the review report(s).

Tips: What is really important is not to ignore any comments (see the point above on making reviewers’ heard) but instead respectfully but clearly explain why those requests fall out of the scope of your present work. You can also note that you will keep the comments in mind with your future research. Backup your points with evidence where possible.

If you feel concerned about any aspects of the reviews, it may be worth contacting the editor to articulate and address them and ask for their advice. Especially if you feel they contained unprofessional comments from the reviewers – perhaps link to:

Taking in reviewer commentary also means you give yourself a chance to reach out of your bubble

To keep in mind: The reviewers of your paper will likely be one of your first readers (especially if you did not share your work as a preprint). Their comments are likely to be similar to those that eventual readers of your work may have raised. Bear in mind that some of your readers may come from different expertise or backgrounds . This provides a good  opportunity to clarify and strengthen the paper for a broad readership. Also take into account that studies show that manuscript reviewers of today are the co-authors of tomorrow (link).

Tips: In many cases, a request for clarification by a reviewer is a chance to make your work accessible to readers and potential collaborators outside of your team, paradigm, discipline, country, or even profession.