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The task of performing a revise and resubmit can vary greatly in complexity. In the simple case, the lead author can do the task mostly on their own. They might identify the points, work out an order to do them in, and then work through them one at a time, making changes in the document, and crafting the response document point by point.

However, more substantial revisions often involve a more fundamental restructuring of the paper. Thus, the first attempt at incorporating a response to a particular point might be further drafted and redrafted. Collaborators may review the manuscript and make further edits. Sometimes, you make a change to address point 1, and then as you are making changes to point 7, you realise that this going to slightly alter how you address point 1.

In these cases where you have complex major revisions and or collaborators who are providing substantive edits, it is tricky to know when to write the response document. This is particularly true if you are trying to make the response document relatively self-contained (e.g., quoting changes, deletions, inclusions, etc.)

Thus, my questions:

  • When preparing a response to a complex set of revisions, when should you write the response document: (a) while you are writing the response to each point, or (b) at the end, once all the points are made, or (c) rough draft initially that is reviewed at the end?
  • Relatedly, how important is it to have a clear strategy about how all the revisions will be handled before starting to make any revisions?
  • More generally, are there workflow tricks for dealing with the issue of ensuring that the response document stays consistent with the manuscript changes?
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I have had to this on a number of occasions (as I am sure many have), and have, with the help of my collaborators. At the moment, my colleagues and I are doing exactly this for a paper.

In answer to your questions:

When preparing a response to a complex set of revisions, when should you write the response document: (a) while you are writing the response to each point, or (b) at the end, once all the points are made, or (c) rough draft initially that is reviewed at the end?

I tend to do (a) and (c). Details in answer to the 3rd question. But, I find that it is always good practice to take the time and critically review everything I do in academia.

Alongside the manuscript, the response to review is an important document in terms of the publication of your paper. As such, it needs to be completed methodically and reviewed before submission.

Relatedly, how important is it to have a clear strategy about how all the revisions will be handled before starting to make any revisions?

I believe that it is always crucial to have clear strategies. Making (and refining) a 'plan of action' is a good way to increasing the efficiency and the effectiveness of how the revisions are handled.

An important part of this is to decide who will address the reviewer comments first, and who would review the corrections and responses (we have the first author do this, as an example).

More generally, are there workflow tricks for dealing with the issue of ensuring that the response document stays consistent with the manuscript changes?

What I have done for complex revisions on collaborative papers (and found to work rather well):

First make a printed 'working desk copy' of the reviewers' comments and have the manuscript on the screen.

  • for convenience, we put the comments in a table, with a column for our notes in response to the reviewers' comments. Additionally, we put another, thinner column for where the change occurs in the paper (page/line number etc). But, this is up to personal preference - the point is to have a printed copy that you can write over.
  • As I have often found that reviewer comments are in the order that they appear in the paper, we use the same order when we go through the comments. if the comments are not in order, it is helpful to put them in order.
  • One suggestion I have seen for this stage is to put all the comments in the order that they appear in the paper. But, we prefer to have a separate page for each reviewer's comments, and have the desk copies side by side (as a response to a suggestion from one reviewer may affect an earlier suggestion from another reviewer).
  • Take the time to consider each suggestion individually, writing in the revisions as you make them to the manuscript (highlighting any changes if you wish, for this stage).
  • Once you have completed the review desk copy, type the responses into the response to review digital version - as you do, double check that everything is included accurately.
  • Send the revised document and the response to the collaborators to check and review that all comments are addressed and that the responses are accurate.

Then of course, the final step is to prepare both documents for submission (re-submission) to the journal in accordance to their guidelines.

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