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Peer Review: Responding to Reviewer Comments

A guide to the peer review process and different models of review.

How to Respond to Peer Reviewer Comments

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Manuscripts intended for publication are rarely accepted as-is. Revisions are necessary the vast majority of the time. It's crucial to respond to peer reviewers' comments. Ignoring them can result in the complete rejection of the paper. Below is an overview of what can be expected with the most common peer review decisions.


Paper accepted without any revisions: Very rarely occurs

Accepted pending minor revisions: Usually minor edits and/or formatting

Accepted pending major revisions: Usually includes dataset or methodology revisions and/or major rewriting

Rejected without external review: Indicates paper is outside journal scope or did not meet standards of a very prestigious journal

Rejected after external review: Possible major deficiencies in paper or poor writing


Some suggestions for responding to peer reviewer comments:

  • Every comment from each reviewer needs to be addressed.
  • A response letter or document should be included with your revised manuscript. This document should list all the points made by reviewers and how you addresses them. You should also highlight the changes made in your manuscript, so they are easily discoverable.
  • If you strongly disagree with a comment and decide to keep that portion of the manuscript the same, write a polite rebuttal with documentation to support your position.
  • If you are asked to make major revisions, this can be frustrating and very time-consuming. It may be a good idea to set the revision request aside for a short period of time and then go back to it with a clear head. Be flexible and understand that reviewers are trying to help you in ending up with a well-written and methodologically strong paper. The entire manuscript, not just specific sections pointed out, should be revised to ensure a good flow throughout.
  • If you are unable to revise the manuscript as suggested by a reviewer's comment, be honest in your response to the reviewers about why you are not able to correct the issue. Revise the Limitations section of your manuscript to include the issue that you are unable to rectify.
  • If you or your team believes that a reviewer has misunderstood you, politely contact the journal editor and explain your perspective.  
  • If there is a conflict between reviewer comments, contact the editor and ask how this conflict might best be resolved. If the comments by different reviewers are pertinent but conflicting, it is up to your team to choose which commentary to use in moving forward with your revisions (explaining why that particular path was chosen over another). 
  • If your article was rejected after peer review, take the time to address the peer reviewers comments before you submit to another journal. These comments can help strengthen your submission and increase your chances of getting accepted the second time around.  

Sources: Algase DL. Revise and resubmit: now what? Research and Theory for Nursing Practice. 2014;28(3):195-198. Available from:

LaPlaca P, Lindgreen A, Vanhamme J, Di Benedetto CA. How to revise, and revise really well, for premier academic journals. Industrial Marketing Management. 2018 Jul 1;72:174-80. Available from:

Pinotti R, Walsh, S. The peer review process [PowerPoint slides]. 2019.

Shah J. An author’s guide to submission, revision and rejection. The Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England. 2015 Nov 1;97(8):546-8. Available from:

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