Recently I have received a peer-review letter on my article. While preparing an answer I've found that I have no idea what I should include in the answer.

There is multiple "idea" notes and few language issue mentioned.

It's my first peer-review, so it would be very useful to have some idea how to compose a good reviewer reply.

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    Addressing the issues mentioned point by point is usually a good way to go. – Faheem Mitha Jun 5 '15 at 18:10
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    Some open access journals like BioMed Central show all these correspondence (look for "pre-publication history" at the right vertical bar. It may give you some tips on how they are actually done. – Penguin_Knight Jun 5 '15 at 20:12

Generally, the best way to respond is with a detailed rundown, discussing every point that the referee raised in turn. (This may be unnecessary if there are only a handful of minor changes asked for, but it doesn't hurt even then.)

What I generally do is to start with a two or three sentence introduction, stating that I have made all the changes that the referee suggests. If there were changes that I was unwilling to make, I just say that I have made most of the changes but that I feel that one or more of the referee's requests were not appropriate.

Then I begin a point-by-point analysis of what the referee said and how I have responded. Usually, I address the points in the same order as the referee raised them in their report, but not always. (Sometimes there may be just one major revision that was requested, and I want to discuss that first, before the minor points, even though the referee did not order things the same way.) It's often a good idea to quote directly what the referee said in the report and then follow up with an explanation of the changes that have been made.

Sometimes, just stating that the change has been made is sufficient. This is typically all that's needed for linguistic problems. If the editor and referee may have trouble finding a change, you can point out where it is. If the changes are more substantive, it's a good idea to give a summary of what the changes were. These don't need to be long, but the should point out the main significance of the changes.

If there were changes that you were unwilling to make, you must carefully explain why. If you think the referee was wrong, this should be pointed out very tactfully. A good referee will recognize their error if they really made one. If there are matters of opinion, it may be trickier to convince editor and referee that things are really better your way. It is also important that you make it clear that you are reasonable about making changes. If you refuse to make anything but the most trivial corrections in response to a referee's report, that makes you look stubborn and probably unreasonable.

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The format that works for me, looks like that:

  1. Thanking the reviewers and editor for comments
  2. Stating the major issues of the referee report, and how we address them in the new version.
  3. Summarizing major revisions done, if any. This includes re-organizing the paper; change in terminology; adding / removing results; etc. Sometimes this part blends with the previous one, but sometimes there are changes that you have done which were NOT requested by any reviewer, but were needed in the revised paper.
  4. If the referee report contains a list of specific comments: add a list of these comments (copy-pasted from the report itself). Below each comment, reply if, and how, the comment was addressed.
  5. thanking the reviewers and editor.
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Matt Might explains on his blog a very systematic step-by-step procedure to address reviewer comments, which I recommend you to read. His premise is that every response should ensure the reviewers that

We acknowledge your criticism and advice; we understand your misunderstanding; and we can fully integrate this feedback.

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It is not actually appropriate to reply directly to the reviewer, instead, you should summarize to the editor (knowing that the reviewers will see your response) what changes you made (especially relating them to what reviewers tell you you should do), and what changes you did not make (briefly justify not making a change requested by a reviewer). Most of the time, you should make a change, though it may not be the change requested. For example, if a reviewer tells you to used method X rather than Y, you don't have to use method X but you should explain in the paper why method Y is not appropriate. The reason for doing that is because if the reviewer didn't understand your paper well enough to see that, other readers are also likely to be perplexed, so you need to explain better. Sometimes reviewers are just embarassingly wrong so that anybody in the field should know why you use Y rather than X, in which case you can keep the discussion out of the paper, and simply tell the editor why Y is the appropriate method.

There is no need to give a detailed accounting of every criticism, and you could summarize criticisms of exposition with a general statement like "problems with language have been resolved throughout the paper".

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  • I don't mean to answer reviewer directly, I even don't know who have reviewed my article... – m0nhawk Jun 6 '15 at 15:16

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