Thank you, Reviewer 2! (No sarcasm!)

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been sitting on an accepted-with-revisions paper for well over a year. (I know. I know. Okay?) The paper needs major revision, which I will do.

I’m actually kind of glad I let it sit for so long, because it gave me the opportunity to look at the reviews again with fresh eyes. I went through this thing when I first got the decision where I was very excited to be accepted with revisions. Then I read Reviewer 2’s comments.

Reviewer 2 says things like, “This feels like the work of a beginning researcher ‘writing one’s way’ into a topic.” Reviewer 2 is not wrong. I wrote this my first semester of the PhD program, sat on it for 3 years, and revised it minimally before submitting. (I KNOW. I had a baby, okay? And then he turned into a toddler. SHH.) I re-read it before reading the reviews this time, and REVIEWER 2 IS NOT WRONG.

I also took Wendy Belcher’s point that reviewers who take the time to offer detailed comments think something is worth working on until it’s better and can be published; if they thought it was worthless, they would simply say it should be rejected. (The decision recommendation from Reviewer 2 was “Not acceptable as is; needs major revisions as indicated.” There is an option for straightforward rejection; Reviewer 2 did not take it.)

The first time I looked at these reviews, I read Reviewer 2’s comments and got all “BOO you don’t get me, you’re wrong” and now I’m like, “Oh, Reviewer 2, you’re so right, thank you thank you thank you.” Because Reviewer 2 said:

The conclusion’s intriguing ideas indicate that perhaps the author, after writing the paper, has discovered a few trends in the review that, if revisited, could reshape the literature review to be more powerful and deliver more impact, finding deeper insights than those that are listed here. I hypothesize that this is one of the first research pieces written by a student doing first forays into scholarly writing, and that now that this preliminary work is done, a second attempt would be more nuanced and in-depth.

And Reviewer 2 also said:

It may be that focusing on three topics meant that all three issues could only be covered in a cursory way within the page limitations. It might be interesting to consider going deep in just one or two of these areas, which might open up more space for that deeper understanding to happen.

This is a brilliant idea. My original audience for this was a professor, who needs to know different things than other researchers and library professionals might.

From now on, I think I’ll think of peer review as getting free editing.

I have a lot to think about. This is going to be a lot of work to rewrite. But it’s going to be really good work to do, and will (I hope) break me of my distaste for/impatience with revision. (As an editor, I’m super into deep revision. As a writer, I’ve already moved onto the next thing…)

Time to be my own developmental editor, I think.

Kimberly Hirsh @kimberlyhirsh