Responding to Peer Review - From Outsider to Insider in Scholarly Publishing - Writing as Professional Development

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Responding to Peer Review
From Outsider to Insider in Scholarly Publishing
Writing as Professional Development

During a professional development session for new faculty members on writing for publication, two professors became acquainted and agreed to support one another’s writing efforts by reading and critiquing one another’s manuscripts. As one of them arrived at the appointed time in the other’s office, he said, “I realized, as I was walking over, that my hands were actually shaking. I can’t believe I’m this nervous about sharing what I’ve written with you. For some reason, it makes me feel so vulnerable, as if it were me being judged rather than the words I’ve put on paper.” This candid comment captures many of the feelings associated with subjecting work to peer review. Negative reviews can wound the ego, hurt feelings, and make those desperate to get published even more so. What are some more productive ways to respond to less-than-glowing reports on a manuscript over which you have labored long and hard?

As a start, understand the range of editorial decisions rendered on manuscripts and appropriate responses to them in Table 12.4.

Table 12.4

The range of editorial decisions




Reject without review

This means that the work is a poor match for the outlet or clearly does not meet quality standards. The editor has screened it and will not waste the volunteer reviewers’ time by asking them to evaluate it

A student submits an entire master’s thesis as a journal article

The journal’s audience consists of researchers but the article is written for laypersons

The manuscript contains so many errors or is so poorly written that it cannot be salvaged

Reject and recommend another outlet

The manuscript looks promising, but it does not meet current publication needs of the outlet. Still, the editor is impressed by the manuscript and takes the time to suggest an alternative place of publication

The editor cannot use it because the topic was (or will be) treated extensively already

An article that is better suited for a journal in psycholinguistics is sent to a publication for language arts teachers

Reject after review

The manuscript has been reviewed and the reviewers did not recommend publication

The manuscript does not make a significant contribution in the estimation of the reviewers

There are some major conceptual flaws in the work

Revise before review

The manuscript shows some signs of promise but cannot be sent out to reviewers without first being rewritten or formatted differently

The manuscript is nearly double the recommended page length

The manuscript is not in the required format (e.g., APA 6th edition) or is incomplete (e.g., no abstract and key words)

Major revisions

The manuscript has promise but the reviewers have recommended substantial revision; the work may be sent out for review again. The author will need to submit a detailed, point-by-point explanation of how each revision was addressed

Reviewers question the procedures or analysis

Reviewers find the organization difficult to follow

Reviewers suggest the addition of a major piece, such as a conceptual framework

Minor revisions

The manuscript is nearly publishable; publication is contingent on the author making minor revisions that will require a modest time investment

The manuscript is of high quality; however, there are some referencing style errors that need to be corrected

The manuscript title or abstract needs to be revised

Some portion of the manuscript still needs refinement (e.g., the introduction, implications, discussion, or conclusion)


The manuscript is nearly ready to publish in its current form; the very minor revisions necessary can be handled during the production process

The manuscript has been carefully prepared and earned enthusiastic reviews