I am trying to respond to comments from a reviewer (Major Revisions). Is it weird to use references in my responses?

For instance I might try and prove a point. Can I cite papers to do that. I know I have to play it carefully and not do it in a way to insult the reviewer.

  • academia.stackexchange.com/questions/204904/… Does this answer your question?
    – Allure
    Feb 24 at 3:39
  • 6
    Yes, you can use references in your response, and it is common to do so. It is not weird, as long as the papers are relevant and support the point you are making. Feb 24 at 3:40
  • 3
    Is there a reason you believe you shouldn’t? Insulting a reviewer with a rational response? Feb 24 at 4:41

2 Answers 2


It is common to cite references in a reply to reviewers comments. Whether or not the reviewer or editor finds you response insulting (hopefully not!) will simply depend on the tenor of your reply.

Sometimes a reviewer will miss an appropriately referenced sentence in your paper that addresses the issue of concern and there is nothing objectionable about politely repeating the information in a reply (not by rubbing their nose in the fact that you are repeating yourself).

More often, however, the fact that you need to introduce a reference into a reply will, itself, be a pointer to the fact that something might not have been sufficiently explained or referenced in the original paper. In that case, it is appropriate to directly address the concern of the reviewer in a letter to the editor, and also to introduce additional material (sometimes just a reference, sometimes a sentence or two) into the paper. If you do that, then you should tell the editor explicitly that that is what you have done. For example, "Reviewer A asks about whether XYZ could account for the data we have obtained. The issue has previously be considered, and rejected, by two previous research groups (Smith & Jones, 2019; Xeno & Phobia, 2020) and we have introduced a sentence at page n, line l for clarification."


For me the general guideline to this question would be: the purpose of a review is not to discuss with (or enlighten) the reviewer but to make the paper better.

Even if the reviewer misunderstood, it means the paper lacks clarity or important intermediate steps are not spelled out explicitly. The paper should then be improved to avoid the misunderstanding (the reviewers are usually experts in the subject so other people likely have even more difficilties understanding).

Hence, in my opinion it is not useful to provide a reference only in the response to the reviewer (of course a clarifying reference to the text is completely different story).

I would really recomment to resist the temptation to start a discussion with the reviewer. This is in my understanding not the point of a review. In fact a disussion attempt could make them angry because they may consider the process as inefficient and as a waste of time. The review is a courtesy to the author(s) and if a paper got "major revisions" (instead of "reject") this means the reviewer thought the work has value (but the authors need to put some additional work in it, which the reviewer has no obligation to take part in).

So take all comments of the reviewer seriously and address them by doing appropriate(!) modifications to your text. It does not mean you have to do everything the reviewer demands literally, you more need to find out the underlying issue and address that appropriately.

If in case a reviewer seems to be malicious and intentionally write a bad review, please inform the editor.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .