Revise and resubmit?
August 21, 2015 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Academic-filter. You submit a 10000-word manuscript to a relatively prestigious history journal and several months later you get four (mixed) peer review responses (one very positive, one reject outright, and two "this could be a major contribution to the field, but it needs to be substantially rewritten and reframed to be publishable in X Journal"), accompanied by an invitation from the journal editor to "revise and resubmit." What do you do?

How do you decide whether going down the "R&R" path is worth it, versus abandoning or bottom-drawing the MS altogether or submitting it to another journal? What strategies do you have for responding to and negotiating with the editor? How do you handle the revision process itself? Especially, how can you do the least amount of rewriting and reframing for the greatest amount of effect? Optional: I'd also be interested in knowing what "revise and resubmit" means exactly in a History context. Is it good/bad/other? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
posted by Sonny Jim to Education (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How do you decide whether going down the "R&R" path is worth it,

It almost always is.

First things first: what does your advisor say?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:54 AM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Did they give you specifics about what to revise? When this happened to me with a history article, they told me what points to address, so it was a defined task. I did it and it was well worth it; it really improved the article. If they haven't given you much information about what to do, ask for some.
posted by BibiRose at 6:57 AM on August 21, 2015

Take the feedback from the reviewers on board and do the revise and resubmit as quickly as you can. Don't dawdle - editors can change and the reviewers will be more amenable and happier to re-review if they still remember the paper.
posted by srboisvert at 6:58 AM on August 21, 2015 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Nearly every article submitted to any decent history journal will get an R&R notice. It's standard, so don't worry about that. Even if you rewrite it for another journal, you will get an R&R notice on that one too.

Generally, for 'is it worth it', the best guide is the editor's letter, and asking around to get a better sense of the time scale for alternative submissions.

Ignore the editor's letter for a week. You can't process them immediately. Then open it up and really read it. Is s/he saying 'well, if you wanna, have another crack, I guess' or are they saying 'this could make it, but pay attention to what reviewer 1 and 2 want'. Have they indicated whether they'll send it out for a full 5-person second review, or perhaps just back to a couple of these reviewers?

Secondly: how long did they take to turn this around? How long does your alternative option take? It can be frustrating to plug away at a popular journal, but it sure as hell beats waiting 3 years for an alternative one to make a decision. If it is possible for you to publish in this journal, then it almost certainly will be quicker for you to do so, than to start the process over with another journal. The worst that can happen is that you'll rewrite, submit, wait X months and get a rejection - it won't stop you going to Plan B at that point.

Generally: a resubmit is always worth the effort unless you're getting fairly strong signals from the editor not to bother, or unless you think you've got a really good chance with a plan B and have other demands on your time that are more immediately pressing than doing a rewrite.

And if you really can't decide? Email the editors; it's quite legit. to say 'this is my first article, and I'm finding it hard to judge what's going on here; do you think a rewrite stands a good chance?'.
posted by AFII at 7:06 AM on August 21, 2015 [17 favorites]

Best answer: Revise and resubmit. Make a document with all required changes as outlined by your reviewers and respond to each one by either making the change or by justifying why the change isn't necessary.

R&R is standard and is nearly always a necessary step before publication in most disciplines, including History.

Also, this: how can you do the least amount of rewriting and reframing for the greatest amount of effect? is the wrong way to go about it. Just do what needs to be done to get this article published by responding to the comments made by your reviewers.
posted by sockermom at 7:07 AM on August 21, 2015 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Doing the R&R is almost always worth it, UNLESS the changes suggested by the reviewers are ones that you're really, really not willing to make (for example, they're asking you to completely change your argument to something you think is not true). Otherwise, get out a legal pad/open a Word doc, go through the reviews, and write out each point that the positive and R&R reviews note they'd like to see changed. Then go through the negative review and see if there are any good suggestions there you want to mine (they probably won't send the manuscript back to this person, but it's good to see if there are suggestions to improve here that you may want to make). Once you have this master list, start tackling it point-by-point. While you might not need to make every change on the list, you do need to have a response of some sort in the memo you send back to the editor -- so if you don't want to make a particular change, you need to explain specifically why. Otherwise, note in the memo where you made the change.

Whatever you do, why in the world would you abandon the manuscript? If you're in a position where you just don't have time to deal with revisions or something, at least send it to a lower tier journal!
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:07 AM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

I used to process editor letters for submissions for a major journal and everyyyy article that went through the publication pipeline was an R&R. There's always room for improvement, apparently!
posted by easter queen at 7:08 AM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also this: Especially, how can you do the least amount of rewriting and reframing for the greatest amount of effect?

This is absolutely not the way to think about this! Look at the R&R process as a way to improve your thinking and writing about the topic so that once your paper gets published, it will be better.

Note: All this is assuming you are a PhD student aiming for an academic job. I suppose if you're not, and you just want to get this published for "that would be cool!" reasons or something, you can ignore some of this. But if you're going to be on the academic job market, people really will read your work (not just count publications) is worth it to really put in the effort to improve your published work so that you're putting your best foot forward.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:11 AM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I was a publishing editor at a physics journal. I know things are different in science, but I never, in reviewing thousands of papers and referee reports, gave a "Revise and Resubmit" to a paper I was not at least willing to publish in principle, and the vast majority I expected to publish. Further, most papers got "Revise and Resubmit". It's the rule, not the exception.

So, assuming your sole goal is to get something published as quickly as possible, you should revise and resubmit.

If you make a good faith effort to revise it, your odds are very good at this stage.

If you abandon it then your odds of getting it published are zero.

If you submit it to a less prestigious journal, your odds are probably worse than the post-Revise-and-Resubmit odds at the current journal.
posted by caek at 7:12 AM on August 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not sure what you mean by "negotiating with the editor". What is there to negotiate?

Also, those aren't mixed reviews. Those are overwhelmingly positive reviews, with one dissenting review thrown in FYI because it is considered bad form to withhold submitted reviews from an author, not because they necessarily want you to take that review to heart. If the editor agreed with that review, your article would have been rejected.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:31 AM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure what you mean by "negotiating with the editor". What is there to negotiate?

I have actually done this. In my case, I was being asked to make revisions/additions that would take the paper significantly over the stated word limit for the journal. My coauthor and I basically said, "We are happy to make these changes, but it's pretty clear to us that in order to do them justice, we would need more space." The editor was willing to budge on the word limit, so our piece turned out a bit longer than what is typical for that journal.

I think if you have a reasonable request it doesn't hurt to ask...sort of depends what you want to negotiate over.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:38 AM on August 21, 2015

Response by poster:
I'm not sure what you mean by "negotiating with the editor". What is there to negotiate?
I mean negotiate a timeframe for getting revisions in.
This is absolutely not the way to think about this! Look at the R&R process as a way to improve your thinking and writing about the topic so that once your paper gets published, it will be better.
Yes, you're absolutely right! This (and the negotiation part) is just utter panic manifesting itself when I think about how little time I'm going to have to do this before the start of the next academic year.

Thanks for all these responses: they're really helpful. I guess part of the problem here is discipline-specific. I'm a very junior academic in an English department and generally submit to Eng Lit journals or publish in edited collections, and we just ... do things differently there, I guess. The peer review experience I've had here (though really positive) has been nothing like that for any of the 10 or so manuscripts I've submitted to journals in my own field. I just needed some advice in parsing what was being said.
posted by Sonny Jim at 7:51 AM on August 21, 2015

Best answer: I came in to say I have never had a paper that I wasn't asked to revise and resubmit, but then I remembered I have been rejected outright. I have reviewed about 20 separate papers and never sent one back for publication without some sort of revision being recommended. I had a paper accepted last week on the second submission and was actually pretty pleased that this was without revision, it surprised me as we made a lot of changes following the feedback from the first submission.

Probably you should do the revision. If there's something in there you don't agree with then don't make the change and say why not in the feedback. Do have a chat with someone more senior in your department, at the very least so that you can get a better idea of what a revised submission should look like (i.e. with your responses to the reviewers set out separate from your text) and to confirm whether and how you should go about making changes.

Do also have a proper read of the recommendations and try to get an idea of what changes would really be needed, I've often been exasperated on first read then gone through again and realised it wasn't so bad. Maybe do this ahead of meeting your senior colleague.

I have gone down the route of submitting a revised paper to a different journal (I won't go into why) and all it does is move you further back in the process. It will be viewed as a new submission, reviewed as before and feedback will be just as likely to be critical, but will take another 2-3 months so you may be worse off and for a less prestigious journal. Make the changes and there is a good chance you will get published and if not at the first rewrite then most likely you will get another chance with even more minor changes to be made.
posted by biffa at 7:55 AM on August 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I mean negotiate a timeframe for getting revisions in.

I guess this means the review says something like 'you have 2 months to resubmit', you can ignore that, they will. I have successfully resubmitted papers well outside 12 months.
posted by biffa at 7:56 AM on August 21, 2015

I've been publishing academically (in the sciences mostly, but also some policy subjects) for fifteen years. I've never had a piece accepted without a revision/resubmission unless you count things like letters to the editor. Take heart, it's a constructive (if frustrating) art of the process, and your manuscript will emerge better for it.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 8:00 AM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you aren't procrastinating and really are under the gun, send a note to the editor today thanking her for the valuable feedback and asking for some more time.

The only thing I'd add to the advice above: junior scholars are sometimes too deferential. It is perfectly fine to refuse to do some suggested edits. But you do need to provide a reason in your cover letter. Your cover letter should be a point- by-point guide to the changes you made and the changes you decided not to make. I'd begin with any suggested changes made by more than one referee; these are ones you will need to make or spend some time showing why they aren't necessary.
posted by girl flaneur at 8:20 AM on August 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

I mean negotiate a timeframe for getting revisions in.

There are no timelines for this, nor could there be.

I've had papers where a simple rewrite was enough to satisfy the reviewers, incorporating and addressing comments. You can do this in a week or two.

I've had papers where we recheck analyses, perhaps bolster them or modify them in certain ways, then re-submit. This can take a few weeks.

I've had one case where we withdrew the paper, redid the experimental design, did a bunch more lab work and resubmitted. That took the better part of a year.
posted by bonehead at 8:48 AM on August 21, 2015

Best answer: First, I agree that you need to wait a little bit to take the criticisms on board.

R&Rs are normal, and always worth responding to. I wouldn't resubmit to another journal unless you've effectively been asked for a new article.

It's perfectly OK to say that one or two things cannot be done, for whatever reason, but that reason and your plans for handling the situation should both be laid out. I've had referees contradict each other, for example, and just said, "I cannot reconcile these two suggestions, but will revise X in light of this other point."

Do pay attention to the negative reviewer, as you absolutely cannot assume that they won't send the article back to them (although it's more likely to go back to someone who R&Rd it). One thing any referee wants to see: did you really pay attention to the comments? That may well take a lot of time and effort.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:11 AM on August 21, 2015

Best answer: Absolutely pay attention to everything the referees said. Even if it feels like they're idiots. There's always something in a review, no matter how harsh, upon which you can base an intelligent revision. Try to go line by line down their comments and address each one, even if it's "That's outside the scope of the paper because XYZ." Swallow your vitriol and be polite, even if the reviewer said something outrageous.

Further, I'm in science, so YMMV, but in my field, the experts are pretty much the experts and sending your paper to a different journal is NO GUARANTEE that you will get all different reviewers. And as a reviewer, there is NOTHING more infuriating than getting the same paper you just spent a lot of time suggesting edits for, submitted in its identical form to a different journal with no effort put towards revisions. It's blood-boiling, let me tell you.

So make the edits, resubmit, if you get panned again then it's time to think about a different journal. But good luck! If they really didn't like it they just would've rejected it.
posted by telepanda at 12:02 PM on August 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I remember when my adviser got back a manuscript accepted without an R & R. He considered it a sign the journal was too indiscriminate. (And since he had published about 50 papers and his insulted attitude, I guess this was the first time.) No co-authors? That's a bit rare these days.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:59 PM on August 21, 2015

Best answer: Different disciplines have vastly different norms. No coauthors in history is totally expected. No coauthors in physics or biology would be an issue.

And yes, if I got an article back that was just accepted without revisions I would be giving the journal the side-eye and would actually probably pull the article and submit it somewhere better. Improvement is always possible, and good feedback should give you some ideas about changes to be made. If an article is just accepted without any revisions, that very much undermines the whole "review" part of the peer review process.

Good luck with revisions.
posted by sockermom at 4:22 PM on August 21, 2015

Best answer: I can't comment on norms from different disciplines (I'm in biology) but this post from Drugmonkey has what I think is a good way of framing a response to a revise and resubmit, and despite the fact that he's talking about grants in biomedicine there, I think it's pretty discipline agnostic.

tldr: "Give your advocates what they need to go to bat for you. This is the biggie. In all things you have to give the advocate something to work with. It does not have to be overwhelming evidence, just something. ... Deny your detractors grist for their mill. ... If someone wants you to cut something minor out, for no apparent reason..., just do it. ... Give the critical reviewer the excuse s/he needs to shift to advocacy. don't want to insult the critical reviewer.... This way even the critical reviewer can backtrack with little loss of face."

I personally wouldn't exceed the review time limit without explicitly asking for and receiving more time if needed -- you really want the editor on your side, not pissed off at you. But again, my field isn't history so I completely defer to whatever the historians in this thread are saying.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:38 AM on August 22, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all this advice, everyone. I will be revising and resubmitting.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:30 AM on August 26, 2015

Response by poster: Article revised twice and now formally accepted. Yay! Thanks, people!
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:57 AM on March 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

« Older Stair Fixings   |   Venmo trouble Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.