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I recently received a peer review report from a journal. They rejected my paper for several reasons, the umbrella explanation is that my work is not suited for that journal. However, there was a comment in the peer reviewers' reports that effectively accuses me of plagiarism:

"It appears some of the formulas and cost method information is taken from a text that is not cited."

This is the only sentence in any of the peer review comments that mentions this. This reviewer does not seem to be accusing me of malicious intent, but likely thinks I forgot to add a citation. I do not think I did. I have looked through my paper to determine if they are correct. There are things I have not cited, but they seem to be common mathematical knowledge (an application of the definition of the expected value of a random variable, for example) or my own work with justifying arguments. I have requested more info from the editor to no avail. Is this something that should worry me? Should I be pushing for more details? Do I just ignore this and move on to the next submission?

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This is not an accusation of plagiarism, but one of incompleteness. With other words, in the opinion of the reviewer you might have not sufficiently explained something by referring to an un-cited general principle. One possibility is that what appears to you as the author to be trivial is not so for the reader.

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  • Even as an accusation of incompleteness it is still devoid of actual content. How is one supposed to make the appropriate changes without being informed what the specific problem is? Nonetheless, thank you for your comment. Sep 13, 2023 at 20:16
  • I understand your frustration. Apparently, the reviewer is wrong in suggesting a single source, but maybe you can cite a few sources in your next submission. Reviewers are volunteers, have limited time, and can make mistakes. If you are sure that this reviewer is wrong on this point, then just do not do anything. But in general, treat reviewers as canary birds in a coal mine. If they have a problem, others might have a similar problem with your text. (Editors are mainly volunteers and will not go chasing a reviewer for you for clarification if the paper is rejected.) Sep 14, 2023 at 8:52

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