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We submitted a manuscript to a reputed journal and we are asked for a revision. One of the reviewer commented

The results are rather straight forward and would be useful to the community of specialists working on optical properties of anisotropic crystals

What does it mean when the reviewer says "the results are rather straightforward"?

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    Usually, 'straightforward' is written in a negative sense -- there is no surprise, and obvious or a corollary of some well known fact. In your case, given the reviewer said '... useful to ...' it may be positive unless the journal is not concerned with 'anisotropic crystals' -- then it is a negative. In general, the reviewer is not impressed. – Prof. Santa Claus Aug 21 at 6:21
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    Note that sometimes anonymous reviewers write in less-than-perfect English. It is possible that they do not mean what they wrote literally, and this sentence has to be judged in context with the rest of the review: is it positive? What did they recommend? – Federico Poloni Aug 21 at 8:32
  • The overall review was positive. But highlighted that structural changes are needed. From all the answers I think what the reviewer meant was second point of Allure's answer. The calculations were straightforward, but we got interesting and relevant result – Thomas Aug 21 at 10:27
  • Some context would help. Was it a physics paper (about anisotropic crystals?), or a different field altogether (ie: math?). If it's a math paper and the reviewer is suggesting it may find application in physics that's a somewhat positive statement. – J... Aug 21 at 17:37
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Offhand, it could mean two things:

  1. The results are to be expected, i.e. not surprising. Normally not a good comment to receive since it implies the paper is not interesting.
  2. The results are gotten in straightforward fashion. For example, if you were asked to take the derivative of an elementary function, there's a well-known series of rules that will lead to the derivative. If the function is complicated enough then taking the derivative will also be complicated - but it is straightforward. Apply the rules correctly and you will get there.

The rest of the sentence leads me to suspect the second interpretation is correct.

If the second interpretation is indeed correct, it wouldn't be something to worry about, and your attention is better focused on what the rest of the review says.

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    +1 I'll add: 3. You've done such a good job that the reviewer found the results straightforward, even though they wouldn't have considered them straightforward prior to your work. (If you like, then by all means add to your answer.) – user2768 Aug 21 at 11:40
  • Thanks for the answer. I think it's the second point in this situation. My calculations were staright forward and I studied a new material using well established method and I believe the results are significant and relevant – Thomas Aug 21 at 12:40
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When we do research we expect to find something new, preferably useful. When the results of an experiment are "straightforward" it means that the novelty is limited. One would have expected such results even without doing the experiment.

Since the novelty is limited it is possibly useful only to some specialists working in a niche area.

I would say, the reviewer is not highly impressed with your work. But at the same time does not think it is useless.

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    If that were the case here, the reviewer would be more likely to have said "but would be useful". – chrylis -cautiouslyoptimistic- Aug 21 at 19:07
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    He has said that it is useful to a group of specialists. – kosmos Aug 21 at 22:38

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