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15093263 Scientific Writing Easy When You Know How 2002 Copy

15093263 Scientific Writing Easy When You Know How 2002 Copy

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Published by Rina Wati

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Published by: Rina Wati on Jun 27, 2011
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Education is what survives when what has been learnt
has been forgotten.

BF Skinner

When you receive the reviewers’ comments, the extent of
them may leave you feeling devastated. This is a normal
response when unknown peers widely criticise many aspects
of your work. The best approach is to be calm and objective.
All you need to do is deconstruct each of the messages into
individual items that you can respond to. In doing this, you
will find that many comments are more easily responded to
than at first thought. It is probably best to try and make the
majority of the changes requested, and to try carefully to
negotiate the more radical suggestions as needed. At the end
of the line, editors take the review process very seriously so no
comments from the reviewers should be lightly dismissed.
Sending back a paper with minimal changes implies either
disdain or arrogance for the review process and will not
impress the journal editor.
Your replies to the reviewers’ comments should make your
responses very clear. This is the time to get the editorial panel
on your side by simplifying the work they have to do in
assessing your responses. Basically, you must take a positive
attitude and put a lot of thought into your responses. A good
way to respond is to use a table in which you list each of the
reviewers’ comments, your responses, and the amended text
as shown in Table 5.1. This helps you to organise what you
need to respond to. It also makes it very clear what you have
done and why. It is a good idea to make most if not all of the
changes suggested. You don’t have to fully accept all
suggestions but, if you don’t, you need to give reasons that
will convince the editor that your opinion is reasonable. In
doing this, it is best to be pragmatic and not to be dismissive
of the reviewers’ work.
Tabulating the responses makes it very clear what changes
you have made and where you have made them. In Table 5.1,
most of the reviewers’ comments have been accommodated.
For comment 1, the reviewer’s suggestion has been met half
way by shortening the section considerably but still leaving
some information in the paper. For comments 2, 5, 6, 8, and 9,

Review and editorial processes


Table 5.1 Example of the use of a table to respond to reviewers’ comments.






The long section on avoidance of

Page 3

This section has been shortened but not removed because

food allergens is not useful. The

one of the studies forms the basis of our hypothesis that

paragraphs should be deleted …

diet modification may be important in reducing the incidence

of asthma.


There should be discussion of the

Page 5

A comment about the safety of Acaril has been added. Side

safety and possible side effects

effects of the active ingredient benzyl benzoate have only

of Acaril

been reported when this compound has been applied directly

to the skin or used to treat clothing at higher concentrations

(10%). The concentration used in this study is 0·03% and is

unlikely to cause these effects.


If sampling was by residential area,

Page 6

We apologise for unintentionally being misleading. This study

then there is a potential statistical

was not a cluster design and we have altered our wording

issue to do with cluster designs

accordingly. Children were selected who lived within a

specified distance from the hospital. This has been

made clear.


The method for calculating

Page 7

We have calculated measurement error according to the

measurement error does not

method of Chinn (1991) and included the limits of agreement

correspond to the coefficient of

as described by Bland and Altman (1996).

repeatability described by Bland

and Altman in 1996


Table 5.1 Continued






The term “active group” may not


The term has been changed to “intervention group”

be the best term



Figure 2 is excellent but could be

Fig 2

We have made the suggested changes to Figure 2 and agree

made clearer

that this makes the figure easier to understand.


In my opinion, Figure 3 could be

Fig 3

Figure 3 defines the allergen avoidance intervention in detail,


as Figure 4 does the diet intervention. We have retained the

figure but are happy for it to be deleted if the editor wishes to

do this.


Setting the type I error rate at 0·05

Page 12

We have replaced the phrase “to avoid the possibility of a

does not avoid the possibility of a

type II error” with “to control the type I error rate”.

type I error, it just controls the

error rate at not greater than 5%


A summary paragraph would

Page 13

A summary paragraph has been added.

be helpful

the reviewer’s suggestions have been accommodated entirely.
For comment 3, the response is to politely point out that
the explanation of the sampling processes was unclear in the
original paper and has been amended. In response to the
reviewer’s comment 4, it would be tempting to point out
that Bland and Altman do not describe a “coefficient of
repeatability” and that the reviewer might like to get his facts
right! Nevertheless, you must always be polite. It is better to be
certain that you have used the correct statistic and to just
note what you have done, as in our reply. For comment 7, the
decision has been left to the editor because the authors
considered the figure to be essential to the message of the paper.
Occasionally, you find that the reviewer has made
disparaging or less than polite comments. Remember that two
wrongs do not make a right and that responding with
disparaging or impolite comments will not impress the editor.
It is best to be noble in the face of adversity. Occasionally
reviewers may suggest that you include more work, seemingly
forgetting that they are reviewing this paper and not the next
one. This will take a prudent response, perhaps on advice from
more senior researchers.

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