Today I got letter from the editor of a journal saying that the reviewer found my work interesting but there are some points which he wants me to clarify. Now, one of the points he made is that he doesn't understand how I got from equation x to equation y and he wants to clarify how. Does that mean that I need to explain this in the paper itself or in the document that is send along the revised version, which explains my respond to the reviewer and what I have changed in the revised version?

  1. Include the full derivation in the response letter.
  2. In the paper, include more hints.
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    Ok, but what I am asking is when a reviewer says he wants a point clarified, does that always mean he wants a change on the paper itself or could he just want me to explain the response letter. – MrDi Aug 31 '15 at 10:01
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    That's why I have two points -- to cover both cases. You need to always change something in the paper as a token of appreciation; assuming the reviewer is correct. – Prof. Santa Claus Aug 31 '15 at 10:04
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    @Prof.SantaClaus, I think that mentioning a "token of appreciation" is misleading. Such should come from the journal editor since the reviewer did their work for free. An acknowledgement for a reviewer whose comment helped improve a paper in a substantial way can be justified, but it's a mode of interaction between authors and reviewers I'd like to see discouraged. No one but the reviewer themselves will really know the depth of the credit due nor given since no one else will see the before and after. Authors fawning over reviewers through such tokens is a bad culture to be promoting. – Bill Barth Aug 31 '15 at 13:01
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    The answer is bang on, although I would not consider it a "token of appreciation" to put more hints into the paper. Rather, the referee has difficulty with a particular step in the proof. Chances are, so will a few of the readers. Explain in some detail in the response to the referee, and summarize this in the paper in a few words. – user3697176 Aug 31 '15 at 13:10
  • Sorry guys, you misinterpreted the expression 'token of appreciation'. What I meant was that doing something to the paper, despite you thinking the paper is perfect, is necessary to show that you respected (or acknowledged) the reviewer's opinion/concern. The alternative would be as follows: in the response letter, you say, 'look idiot, if you're mathematically more mature or more hardworking or had spent more time, you'll see the following jumps in my derivation'. Then leave the paper as it is. – Prof. Santa Claus Aug 31 '15 at 19:28

It doesn't matter what the reviewer wants - you need to do what's best for your paper.

... which is to clarify things in the paper itself.

Think about it: a reader of your paper - one who was trying hard to understand it -was not able to understand your paper, or at least was unsure enough about it that it was worth mentioning. Since they are a reviewer you have a chance to explain things privately to them, but that's not going to be the case for most of your other readers. Some of them are going to hit the same roadblock, but instead of contacting you, they're just going to toss your paper aside. At best you lose a possible citation, worse, they could come away with a low opinion of your rigor and of you as a researcher.

Remember that the paper will need to speak for itself, without the additional comments to reviewers. If one person found the paper confusing, then others are likely to as well.


It's your task to ensure that your paper must be self-contained. One addition, you can add the derivation or extra expression as Appendix, if there is no page limit.

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