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I was recently reading some suggestions on how to effectively write a "response to reviewer comments" document. One suggestion was to consider categorising reviewer comments by theme.

Categorize the reviewers’ comments: If there are too many comments, it would help if you separate the comments into categories. For example, all the comments related to methodology could be grouped together, all related to language could be under one category, etc. If you decide to do that, make sure you add a sentence such as “I have separated my responses to the reviewers’ comments according to several categories in order to achieve an integrated approach in my responses.” SOURCE

Previously my workflow has been to do this internally but to still organise the response document by reviewer order and then by the order implied by their response. So, I would number and give a title to each reviewer point. I would then organise these into categories in a separate document (just for me) and work out the best way to sequentially work through them. If two reviewers made the same point, in the response to the second reviewer, I would just refer back to the relevant review earlier.

So my question:

Is it advisable to re-organise reviewer points thematically in the response document? Or is it better to retain the order implied by the editor's letter?

Some initial thoughts:

  • Organising by theme will mean that points made by different reviewers and the editor are interspersed. Thus, it will be harder for the editor or reviewer to identify their specific points. A naming convention might reduce this issue a little bit (e.g., I often name reviewer points R1.1, R1.2, etc. for Reviewer 1 Point 1, Reviewer 1 Point 2), but not completely.
  • Response documents vary in complexity. I imagine when there are a lot (e.g., 50+) separate points to address that thematic organisation might be more relevant. Similarly, when there are more reviewers, there may be more overlap in the points that are raised and therefore greater benefit in organising thematically.
  • Some reviewer points are distinct enough that they need to be addressed separately, but may not be as clear when not seen consecutively.
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    Your question makes me wonder whether your rebuttals are limited in length. In my field, length restrictions of a few hundred words are typical, so there is barely any other chance than to pick the most important points and answer them in one short text, without inserting a numbering scheme for comments or different answer parts per reviewer. – O. R. Mapper Apr 11 '17 at 4:58
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    With that said, you wrote: "I would just refer back to the relevant review earlier" - now, if you do that and thus kind of expect reviewers to also reading your separate responses to the other reviewers, I see no point in grouping the responses by reviewer in the first place. – O. R. Mapper Apr 11 '17 at 5:01
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    In my field, there are no length restrictions. Are you talking about conference rebuttals? or journal reviewer response documents? It seems strange to have a word limit on these documents as their length is largely driven by the number of reviewer points and the size of the edits requested. But of course, academia is a big place with diverse conventions. – Jeromy Anglim Apr 11 '17 at 5:11
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    Conferences are more prevalent in my field, although I think I have encountered such rebuttal length restrictions in some of the few journal submissions I made, as well. In any case, the point about the number of reviewer points applies equally, but at least the way I was taught to write responses to reviewers was to abide by the rule of thumb that "You can never address all points raised by reviewers in the response; pick the ones that reviewers found most important, then the ones that you would like to highlight, and skip the rest." This may indeed vary greatly by field. Come to think ... – O. R. Mapper Apr 11 '17 at 5:43
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    ... of it, I just remembered I have once written an answer that touches upon this topic. – O. R. Mapper Apr 11 '17 at 5:43
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Any organization of your response will help. Be sure and have someone else proofread your response before sending. The organization of your response should follow the organization of the review, if at all possible. Sometimes people use "in-place" editing, where a response is done in the review's own text, but this probably is not formal enough for your situation.

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    The organization of your response should follow the organization of the review -- OP has several reviews, and the issue is the trade-off between organizing by substance and by reviewer. – henning -- reinstate Monica Nov 26 '18 at 8:26

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