How do you write a rebuttal?

Gepubliceerd op 24 november 2023 om 12:00

You have submitted your paper and then the day arrives: the review comments are in! A very exciting moment, because what kind of feedback will they have on your paper? Will it be rejected or will they give you the chance to submit a revised version? If you are allowed to submit a revision, it is always accompanied by a rebuttal. In the rebuttal, you address the feedback of the reviewers. But how exactly do you write such a rebuttal? In this blog we will give you a few tips.

Tip 1: Copy the feedback into Word

You will usually receive the review comments in an e-mail. It is therefore best to copy all feedback first into a Word document first, to make sure you don't accidentally forget anything. This is because you leave the reviewers' text verbatim in your rebuttal.

Tip 2: Go point by point

Next, you are going to answer the reviewers' feedback point by point. It is useful to split up and number the point of feedback. That way it is immediately clear which feedback you are responding to exactly. It is common that several reviewers looked at your article. You first give your reaction to each feedback point of reviewer 1. Then you create a new heading for reviewer 2's comments, and so on.

Tip 3. Stay purely substantive

Even if the steam emerges out of your ears after reading the review comments (see our blog on the misery called Reviewer #2), always remain factual and substantive in your response. Your job is to convince the reviewer with substantive arguments that your approach was the right one. You do this by, for example, referring to other studies that support your approach. Should these be new references, you can also choose to add them to the manuscript itself. A nice way to put a spin on this, is to thank the reviewer in your rebuttal for making it clear that you needed to explain this point better in your paper.

Tip 4. Be transparent about your revisions

Any suggestions that make your manuscript stronger, you should definitely incorporate in your revision. It is considered courteous to mention that it was a good suggestion from the reviewer. In your response, always refer specifically to the page(s) and line(s) in which you have made the adjustments in your manuscript. Sometimes the journal will also require you to keep an exact record of these changes in the revised version.

Tip 5. Should you do everything a reviewer says?

Very briefly: no, certainly not. Sometimes a reviewer wants you to do something that is not possible, or that makes your paper less strong, or something you deliberately did not do, because you had good reasons not to. Then you certainly don't have to adopt that suggestion. That can be quite scary for a young researcher, because what if that means your paper will suddenly not get accepted!?!! But know that it is alright to disagree with a reviewer, as long as you argue properly why you have decided not to change the manuscript at this point.


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