Revising a Manuscript - 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

Revising a Manuscript
From Outsider to Insider in Scholarly Publishing
Writing as Professional Development

What if someone told you that there was a way to increase your chances of publication success by 60—70 %? Actually, there is. Henson (2007) found that, when authors followed through with a revise and resubmit editorial decision, 60—70 % of the revised manuscripts were published. So, the first step is to realize that:

An invitation to resubmit is not a half-hearted and cowardly way of saying the work is unpublishable, but rather an implicit suggestion that the editor remains interested in the paper and that it is likely to be accepted if the author is responsive to the questions and recommendations of the reviewers. In such cases, it is nearly always worth resubmitting unless there is some clear and unavoidable requirement with which you cannot possibly comply. (Stolerman, 2009, p. 131)

Another important aspect of revising manuscripts has to do with attitude. Two professors who had written a scholarly book found a home for it with Jossey-Bass. After the book was the reviews were in, they scheduled a telephone call to discuss the anonymous peer reviewers’ comments before their conference call with the editor. The conversation went along the lines of, “Reviewer One suggested that we add a section to clarify Chap. 5; that should be easy enough to do.” and “Reviewer Two made some good points about the organization; maybe we should switch the order of the chapters as recommended.” When the conversation turned to the third and final review, there was a pause in the conversation and one of the authors said, “Reviewer three? I think that this person knows more about our topic than we do.” to which the co-author added, “and it was so beautifully written that I even started wondering if it would be possible for the editor to invite Reviewer 3 to write a Foreword for us.” Notice that, in this situation, the authors accepted recommendations for improvement in the same spirit of colleagueship that they were given. They did not insist that the reviewers were wrong, whine about the time it would take to revise, or abandon the project.

Still, the challenges of the revision process are numerous (Moos & Hawkins, 2009). Having the support of a writing mentor or trusted colleague can be very helpful in navigating those changes. As one doctoral candidate explained:

I submitted a book chapter with another colleague and when it came back [from the reviewers], there was a lot of criticism on different aspects of it. And it was nice because I was with the co-author at the time and [we] sat together and went through each remark and decided what remark we would take and revise and what remarks we felt were not in the best interest of the piece…You have to be humble. And take constructive criticism and really use that criticism of others. And I think that over time—at first it’s very hard to do—but over time it really makes you a better writer taking points of views of others, accepting constructive criticisms very gracefully moving on from there. (Jalongo, 2013b, p. 73)

When manuscripts undergo a major transformation, they might be e sent out for review again, adding another several months to rendering an editorial decision. Table 12.5 is an example of an author’s response to recommendations for major revisions.

Table 12.5

Example of author response to major revisions

Reviewers’ comments

Author response

Overall, you did an excellent job of explaining the rationale for your study, the need for research with this specific population, and the implications of the research

Thank you

This manuscript has potential but it would require significant revision to be publishable. The study holds great interest for the readership of the journal; therefore, we are requesting that you make the recommended revisions and resubmit your manuscript. Overall, the tone of the piece overall sounds like an educational psychology journal publication. Remember that your audience for this publication includes practitioners as well as researchers. Please revise accordingly

Expanded, reduced jargon, defined key terminology, and revised accordingly

The literature review seemed to be rather narrow; there is much more out there on this topic

The review was expanded

We require all authors to explain how their research was reviewed by an external group to ensure the ethical treatment of human subjects

Included in methods and procedures, p. 11

Page 4, line 33- provide more background information about the program at this point. You should explain it for those who are not familiar with this body of literature and cite some sources where they can build background knowledge. Consider also that the readership of the journal is international; at times you seem to be addressing a U.S. audience only

Revised and added some citations on the subject matter from other countries

Page 5, line 24- you mention a subscale of the measure without explaining it

Page 5

Completed; this information now appears at the top of page 6

 Line 4- What criteria made the participants eligible to attend the program?

 Line 21- Provide the federal statistic that makes participants eligible for services

Page 5

This was revised and explained

When you discuss the assignment to groups, you should be more explicit as to how participants were selected for the intervention group

Why did you choose to report the median rather than the mean statistic? Were there outliers in your data that made this necessary?

You make no mention in the text of Tables 1 or 2. Each table should be referenced in the body of the paper. You reiterate too much of what already appears in Table 2 in the body of the paper. It would be preferable to mention the major finding and then state: “Refer to Table 2”. APA Style requires you to “call out” each table, figure, chart, or graph in text


Page 7

This material was rearranged into the sequence as suggested

On the bottom of the page you mention two assessment tools; however, neither of these measures had been mentioned previously. The first discussion of them is on the next page. You should write their titles out in full before presenting the acronyms, as well as explain what they used for (briefly). Later, on page 10, you discuss the measurement tools. This is more appropriately placed before the procedure section

The written schedule of interventions mentioned under treatment fidelity should be provided. Perhaps this could be added in an appendix

The article now has a brief appendix

Page 15 and 16

Thank you for noting this discrepancy; it has been corrected

You say that the outcome assessment was only used within the intervention group; however, on page 16 you note that it was used to collect data from the control group

The method section should be reorganized to improve clarity. The measures and procedures are not completely clear. I had to flip back and forth between the pages to get a clear understanding of what measures were used and how the study was carried out

This section has been sequenced more carefully; see pp 16—17

Now looking at Table 1, there is such a large discrepancy in the makeup of the control and experimental groups, how did you handle this statistically so the groups could be compared?

This is now explained

According to APA style, “person first” language is required. The label should not define the person. So, it would be “participants from low-income backgrounds” rather than “low-income participants”


As Table 12.5 illustrates, authors definitely should not resubmit the manuscript with a quick note that reads “I made all of the changes”. You need to respond to each and every comment from reviewers and demonstrate that you complied with their requests. If there is a revision that you cannot accept, you need to say so—and supply a compelling reason for that decision. Many times, authors will disregard recommendations for improvement based on the fact that acting upon them will be too much work. It is better to request more time to revise than to neglect to revise. Actually, you can save a major slowdown by assiduously attending to the suggestions from all of the reviewer because the editor might decide to forego a second round of peer reviews. In most cases, round two of reviews adds another 4 months to the process. You also have built credibility with the editor by doing what was requested as well as saving everyone time and effort. In my experience, it is invariably a bad sign when the recommendation is for major revisions and an author submits a revised manuscript within the hour. It is best to follow the advice of German philosopher Goethe: “Do not hurry, do not wait”. When it comes to major revisions, authors would do well to neither procrastinate nor immediately dash off a response. Rather, they should develop a clear, thorough, and systematic plan that addresses the reviewers’ comments and share it with the editor.