Almost all research articles published in biomedical journals are revised before publication in response to comments from the peer reviewers and the journal’s editor. When authors are asked to revise a manuscript, they are usually asked to submit not only the revised manuscript but also a cover letter and a detailed response.
Address every reviewer comment. If several reviewers have raised essentially the same concern, you may address all of their related comments with a single comment.
Make it easy for the journal editor to see that every reviewer comment has been addressed and to understand how the manuscript has been changed. Suggestions for clear organization and formatting appear below.
Accurately represent the reviewers’ and editor’s comments. When you quote a reviewer or editor comment, it should be clear that you are quoting, and the quotation should be accurate. Use ellipses to condense comments or paraphrase comments instead of quoting them directly.
Whenever you have changed the manuscript in response to a comment, indicate that fact, summarize the change (e.g., “we have addressed this issue in more detail in the Discussion section”), and indicate where the change appears in the revised manuscript [e.g., “(page 12, lines 2-6)”].
If you choose not to make a suggested change, politely and clearly explain why.
Make the response as streamlined as possible. It is better to briefly summarize the changes that have been made in the manuscript than to quote those changes verbatim (unless the journal editor instructs otherwise).
The first page of the response should look something like this:
Editor Name Lastname, Degree
Editor in Chief
Journal Name Re: Paper [Journal’s tracking number: “Title”]
Dear Dr. Lastname,
On behalf of my co-authors, I thank you for the opportunity to revise and resubmit our paper “Title” (manuscript 1286). [Refer to the manuscript by the number the journal assigned it.] We appreciate the helpful comments from you and the reviewers. We have carefully revised the paper in response. We have addressed all of the comments from you and the reviewers, as detailed on the following pages.
We hereby affirm that [statements of compliance with journal requirements].
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. We thank you again for the opportunity to revise and resubmit our paper, which we hope is now acceptable for publication in Journal.
After the cover letter, beginning on the second page, respond point by point to the reviewers’ and editor’s comments. The comments and responses can be formatted however you see fit. Some authors preface each comment with “Comment” and each response with “Response”; other authors avoid these labels and instead use text formatting and paragraph indentation to distinguish comments from responses. Whatever formatting you choose should be consistent throughout the letter. Often the comments and responses are formatted like this:
Comment 1: “The authors should reference the recent review article on this topic published by Smith et al.”
Response: We have added a reference to the Smith et al article in the Discussion section (page 12, line 2).
Comment 2: Request for additional studies in a different cell line.
Response: We conducted additional experiments in MDA-MB-435 cells. The results, which are presented in Supplementary Data, Table S1, were similar to those obtained in our initial studies.
When multiple reviewers have commented on an article, which is usually the case, the typical approach is to address all of reviewer 1’s comments, then all of reviewer 2’s comments, etc. However, other approaches can also work well. For example, if several reviewers have raised the same major issues, those major issues might be addressed up front before the other comments of individual reviewers are addressed, like this:
Many techniques can be used to show revisions in the manuscript. If the editor or journal specifies a technique, use that one. Otherwise, the author should ensure that whatever technique is used makes it easy for the editor to find the changes. Options include the following:
Change tracking (Track Changes feature of Microsoft Word)
Distinctive type style (e.g., underlining, bold, or italics)
Change lines in the margins (available via Track Changes)
If you have made numerous changes in the manuscript because the editor requested English-language editing, it is generally not expected that you show all of these changes. Simply note on the first page of the cover letter that the entire manuscript has been edited by an English-language expert as requested.
Erica Goodoff, a scientific editor, talks to Dr. Shine Chang, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and the director of the Cancer Prevention Research Training Program, about navigating the peer review process used by biomedical journals.