A reviewer asked for modifications, which are not necessary. It is obvious that he has not understood my work. What should I do?

  • 8
    Rewrite extensively so that it's easier to understand.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 14:59

2 Answers 2

  1. Make sure that the reviewer was wrong not you. S/he is definitely an expert in the field and might see your work from a different perspective. In this case, it is not a matter of being right or wrong.
  2. Assuming that s/he have not really understood your manuscript. This suggests that there is something confusing about your manuscript. If s/he, as an expert, has misunderstood it, this means many other readers will not understand it too. Things might be crystal clear to us, but our expression can be confusing but we do not see the confusion from our perspective.

As a general advice, see peer-review as a gift instead of a fight.

  • 4
    Regarding "S/he is definitely an expert in the field" - or, more realistically, s/he is sometimes a first-year PhD student working in an unrelated sub-field who was the only person the editor/area chair could nobble to do the review :) You should still improve the manuscript to make it clearer to non-specialists, but I think it's too strong to automatically assume that everyone who reviews your paper is an expert on every detail of your particular topic. Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 15:02
  • @StuartGolodetz if you don't trust the editor's choice of the reviewers, then, don't submit your manuscript to that journal.
    – Googlebot
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 15:06
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    I don't trust in the availability of a sufficient number of expert peer reviewers to cope with the huge volume of papers that are published each year. The vast majority of people involved in the peer review system do the very best they can, but there simply isn't enough capacity in the system for every paper to be reviewed solely by experts in that very specific area. In reality, most reviewers take on papers that are close enough to their area for them to say something useful, and do their best. If they didn't, the system would fall apart. Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 0:21
  • Put another way, it's not an issue of avoiding particular journals, nor of thinking that peer review isn't valuable, nor of suggesting that authors shouldn't listen to constructive criticism. I merely dispute that every reviewer is an expert on the topic at hand - indeed, conferences in my field (computer vision) routinely provide a drop-down box allowing reviewers to indicate their level of confidence in their own review, which includes a 'not confident' option. They do that precisely because they recognise that not all reviewers are experts on that topic. Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 0:29
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    @StuartGolodetz don't get me wrong, I didn't mean they are oracle. I meant they are active researchers in the field. S/he is potentially a typical reader of your manuscript. Thus, his/her perspective represent those of a wide range of similar readers.
    – Googlebot
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 1:11

It is obvious that he has not understood my work

Happened to me in my first publication. I had two referees. One was super-smart and understood even the minor details and commented ( the author has to improve his style of writing to improve readability). Other reviewer was confused and gave comments that are irrelevant. So, reviewers, some time may not understand our work. Yes, it happens a lot. And it is not their fault. Most of the times it is the fault of the author. They make articles unreadable.

Reviewers are usually scientists in your field who has published several peer-reviewed articles. They are smart. If they cannot understand your article, it means the article is poorly written. Let me give an example, read the two sentences below

It might rain today.

Because of feasible precipitation in the stratosphere, we expect a downpour.

Which one do you understand when you read the first time? Sometimes to sound smart authors intentionally make sentences that are complex and unreadable. Revise multiple time. Make your document simple enough to be read and understood.

But, if you had did all this perfectly and if the reviewer is still not able to understand, consider requesting a change of reviewer. If that doesn't work consider submitting to a different journal. Because of a heavy influx of journal submissions, editors several times have to ask a more free person to referee giving rise to poor reviewers.

  • "Sometimes to sound smart authors intentionally make sentences that are complex and unreadable. Revise multiple time. Make your document simple enough to be read and understood." But how can I make people belive I'm smart otherwise?
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 16:26
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    @Alex You can. All famous scientists and professors try to explain things in layman terms. That's what make their work popular. For example take Richard Feynmann. He explains his complicated work with such passion and simplicity. Doing otherwise is a misconception. You don't need to sound complicated to sound smart. Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 21:58

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