Update: Mars 29 Thank you everyone for your time and efforts to help me with the revision. The article has been resubmitted yesterday and accepted this morning. Without your help, I don't think I can do this. Except your suggestions for this revision, the more important thing I've learned from your comments is the altitude and methods of research, which points out the correct direction and helps me get rid of some misunderstand of research. Thank you everyone again. It's a excellent experience of discussing with you here and I expect more communications in the future.

I've received the editor's reponse for the second revision. He marked "minor revision" in the online system of submission. But his review is so confusing.

Reviewers/Editor comments: As the reviewer kindly points out the discussion is very speculative. In view of this, the outcome of this manuscript is still in doubt and a final decision will be taken upon submission of your revisions.

Reviewer #1: The authors have responded to my comments. The article has some value but its discussion is still somewhat heavy on speculation and somewhat light on hard analysis. Leading the authors further toward a stronger analysis falls beyond the scope of the review and so it falls to the editor to decide whether that value is sufficient to warrant publication in [journal].

In fact, if I revise the manuscript according to their demand to eliminate the "speculations", I have to delete and simply a lot of the discussions. This is a real "major revisions" indeed. So now I am so confused for this so-called "minor revisions". I'd like to ask your help and advice, thank you!

  • 12
    As currently posed, this question is best addressed to a mentor or fellow academic who is familiar with your work and ideally can read over your manuscript. Can you adjust this question to be more broadly applicable? As it stands it is likely to be closed. Mar 20, 2017 at 16:50
  • Thank you very much for your comments. I am sorry due to my English level, I don't understand very well " more broadly applicable". It is for the title of the question or for the content?
    – Enze MA
    Mar 20, 2017 at 17:59
  • 2
    I think you mean "simplify" rather than "simply". Anyway, realistically, the editor has marked the wrong level of revision. You could just start making the revisions or discuss it with the editor...who may just change the online system to say "major revision."
    – mkennedy
    Mar 20, 2017 at 22:43
  • In fact I think that the comments of the reviewer are just 2-3 sentences and so general, there are no details in it. So the editor just chose the "minor revision" option in the submission system.
    – Enze MA
    Mar 21, 2017 at 8:27
  • 3
    The way I read it, the reviewer's concerns are less about the presence of speculations, but more about the absence of "hard analysis". No amount of deleting will satisfy the concerns, you have to add "hard analysis". What exactly that entails should be gleaned from other things Reviewer 1 has said.
    – R.M.
    Mar 21, 2017 at 21:11

4 Answers 4


Both the reviewer and editor are very polite and guarded in their answers. Reviewer #1 basically says that the analysis section of the paper is too light. OP seems to accept that in the comments. "if I simply these discussions (!), it will be revised a lot." Reviewer 1 says the analysis needs to be beefed up, but he is not going to do it. ("Leading the authors further toward a stronger analysis falls beyond the scope of the review...")

Reading between the lines of @Enze Ma's comment, I think I can see the potential problem: The author uses macroscale experiments ---it would help to know a bit about the area in order to understand what that means --- but uses microscale theories to explain these results. This is always going to be a problem and needs to be addressed honestly and directly. What is it about the macroscale results in the paper that make them different from previous work? Are the microscale theories, in fact, able to shed new light on the macroscale resuls? If not, what is the contribution of the paper to existing literature?

This final question is, of course, the most important and should be addressed first. There should be no waffling about the contribution. "I think my paper may extend the field ... " is not going to cut it. "My paper extends the field in these ways:..." is much more positive, stronger, less speculative, and is likely what reviewer #1 is looking for.

  • Thank you for your comments and advices. I agree with you and realized now I've overexplained the results. Objective of the article is to compare the transport behavior of particles with single diameter (3, 10 or 16 um) and that of mixed particles (3+10+16 um). The novelty is the part of mixed particles. To enrich the contents, I use some microscale theories to discuss both single-sized and mixed particles. These microscale results were obtained under ideal conditions in existing literature, and yet our experiments are closed to the reality.
    – Enze MA
    Mar 20, 2017 at 21:39

In my experience, there are three big differences between a major revision and a minor one:

  1. The major usually has more extensive edits requested, which will take more time.
  2. A major revision goes back to reviewers, while the minor revision goes to the (associate) editor for a decision.
  3. The vast majority of minor revisions are ultimately accepted for publication, while many more major revisions are later found unacceptable and rejected.

Another possible factor is that some publications may only allow one major revision in the review process. Here, it sounds almost like they want a major revision (as @Enze MA said) in terms of the extent of the changes, but it won't go back to the reviewer who basically punted and asked the journal to decide whether to accept as is.

So given this, my own reaction would be to try and satisfy the editor that I'm doing my best to follow the reviews, without the drastic rewrite to remove all the speculative content. After all, it's a minor revision. Would it work to somehow make it clearer in the article that the authors recognize some of the discussion is more speculative, for example?

  • Thanks for your comments. The experiments in the article are macroscale and many results are so common and well discussed in the previous littearture. So I used a lot of microscale theories and results confirmed by recent researches to explain my results, in fact our experiments can't corroborate these. So the reviewer thinks it's very speculative. It goes back to my questions, if I simply these discussions, it will be revised a lot.
    – Enze MA
    Mar 20, 2017 at 18:09
  • I'd like to know, do you think after the second revision whether the editor will look for another reviewer? As you said, the reviwer#1 seemed have no desire to review this article. Thank you
    – Enze MA
    Mar 21, 2017 at 15:11
  • As I said, in my experience the definition of a minor revision is that the editor decides and does not send it out for further review. I suppose they could change their mind, but that doesn't seem like a likely outcome. Mar 21, 2017 at 15:49

I just had something similar to this happen with a high-impact journal with an awesomely useful review process. The majorness of corrections is not about the amount of text changed, it's about how significant to the main outcome -- and how difficult to execute -- the changes are. What I (and it sounds like you) had to do was to recognise which of my claims in the discussion were well-supported, and which were not, and just delete what was not, or possibly replace it with smaller, better substantiated claims.

This is a sensible requirement by a good editor. Science isn't benefited if great experiments carry forwards unwarranted speculation to readers, but we also don't want great experiments thrown out because the authors who did them overestimated their value or significance in some way.

Congratulations on your publication, and I advise that you just comment out the stuff you have to delete, or better yet put it in a file as the start of your next paper, and figure out how to really support those claims :-)

  • 1
    Thank you for your comments and advices. I totally agree with you for your comprehension about how to use results in the previous litterature and now realize that maybe I've walked a little far away from my own experiment results.
    – Enze MA
    Mar 20, 2017 at 21:46

The distinction between minor and major revisions is subjective and it may be that the editor believes that this may be an easy fix, though the comments made to you are confusing for you (as they may be to anyone).

Without having your paper to review and not knowing about the topic of the manuscript, my initial thought is that you may be able to move your discussion section from "speculative" to "analytical" by grounding your findings more in the existing research. If you can relate your findings more to the existing body of research and site other stories, it seems that this would make your discussion of the findings less "speculative." Good luck! Hope this helps.

  • Thank you very much for your comments and good wishes. The revised manuscript has been resubmitted yesterday afternoon and accepted this morning. I did exactly like what you said, revised concisely the "speculative" sentences to make them more solid and related to the results.
    – Enze MA
    Mar 28, 2017 at 8:05
  • How great! Congratulations! It is very frustrating when you can't understand editors' and reviewers' comments, but in this case your effort paid off. Mar 30, 2017 at 17:28
  • Thank you very much. Yeah so frustrating! In fact, the process was a little funny, the editor firstly made a mistake and clicked the refuse button. So the system send automatically a refusal email. At that moment, it was 2 a.m. of Paris time, and my advisor didn't sleep and had waited for the whole night. Once he saw the email, he felt so depressed. Fortunately, just after 2 mins, the editor corrected this error and acception email was sent out. What a poor man, my advisor, he experienced all this alone, haha.
    – Enze MA
    Mar 31, 2017 at 17:06
  • Oh, goodness! Ha! The highs and lows of academic publishing. LOL! Mar 31, 2017 at 19:44

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