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Major revisions: Sample peer review comments and examples

‘Major revisions’ is one of the most common peer review decisions. It means that the peer reviewer considers a manuscript suitable for publication if the authors rectify some major shortcomings. As a peer reviewer, it is useful to learn about common reasons for a ‘major revision’ verdict. Furthermore, you can get inspired by sample peer review comments and examples which reflect this verdict appropriately.


Common reasons for a ‘major revisions’ decision

Peer reviewers recommend whether a manuscript is worth publishing. Thus, the task of peer-reviewing should not be taken lightly.

Knowing how to react to a ‘major revisions’ verdict on your own manuscript is important. Yet, it is different from evaluating someone else’s manuscript.

As a manuscript reviewer, you decide on a ‘major revisions’ verdict if you think that the manuscript is good, but that the authors have to address some significant issues before it can be published.

There are four common reasons for a ‘major revisions’ decision:

  • The overarching argument is unclear: Some manuscripts fulfil general academic standards and draw interesting conclusions. However, their key message is not worked out properly. A good manuscript should formulate an explicit overarching argument and contain a crystal-clear takeaway message.
  • The theoretical framework needs improvement: Manuscripts that present a promising yet incomplete theoretical framework often receive ‘major revisions’. An incomplete theoretical framework disregards for instance a relevant body of literature or an important theory.
  • Evidence needs to be strengthened: Manuscripts should develop clear arguments, and academic journals even welcome provoking claims. However, these claims have to be supported by convincing evidence. In some manuscripts, this evidence is insufficient, and more detailed information, calculations, examples, figures, tables or quotes are needed.
  • Some sections are illogical or unclear: At times, some sections or paragraphs are difficult to follow. Thus, they need to be deleted, reordered or rewritten. Note that too many structural issues in a manuscript often result in a ‘revise and resubmit‘ decision.

You may also like: Reject decisions – Sample peer review comments and examples

Sample peer review comments for a ‘major revisions’ verdict

“The manuscript shows a lot of promise, but some major issues need to be addressed before it can be published.”

“This manuscript addresses a timely topic and makes a relevant contribution to the field. However, some major revisions are needed before it can be published.”

“I enjoyed reading this manuscript, and believe that it is very promising. At the same time, I identified several issues that require the authors’ attention.”

“The manuscript sheds light on an interesting phenomenon. However, it also has several shortcomings. I strongly encourage the authors to address the following points.”

“The authors of this manuscript have an ambitious objective and draw on an interesting dataset. However, their main argument is unclear.”

“The key argument needs to be worked out and formulated much more clearly.”

“The theoretical framework is promising but incomplete. In my opinion, the authors cannot make their current claims without considering writings on…

“The literature review is promising, but disregards recent publications in the field of…”

“The empirical evidence is at times insufficient to support the authors’ claims. For instance, in section…”

“I encourage the authors to provide more in-depth evidence. For instance, I would like to see more interview quotes and a more transparent statistical analysis.”

“The authors work with an interesting dataset. However, I was missing more detailed insights in the actual results. I believe that several additional tables and figures can improve the authors’ argumentation.

“I believe that the manuscript addresses a relevant topic and includes a timely discussion. However, I struggled to understand section 3.1.”

“I think that the manuscript can be improved by removing section 4 and integrating it into section 5.”

“The discussion and conclusions are difficult to follow and need to be rewritten to highlight the key contributions of this manuscript.”

“The line of argumentation should be improved by dividing the manuscript into clear sections with subheadings.”

Reviewer comments ‘major revisions’ example 1

This paper addresses the evolution of criminal law on harassment in Canada based on an analysis of legal verdicts between 1920 and 1998. I believe that the manuscript shows a lot of promise, and makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of criminal harassment charges in the Canadian context. However, I defined three major issues which need to be addressed:

1. The literature review is well-written and sheds light on important perspectives regarding the evolution of criminal harassment charges. However, it completely disregards discussions on, and insights from, historic institutionalism. I believe that a reflection on historic institutionalism is needed and can considerably improve the quality of the theoretical framework.

2. The context and the empirical analysis partly overlap, which leads to repeating information and statements. I encourage the authors to rethink the purpose of the context section. My suggestion is to either rewrite it so that it makes a unique contribution to the research and overarching argument, or to remove it altogether.

3. In the methodology section, the authors state that they analyzed 68 legal verdicts. However, this analysis remains in the background. Meanwhile, the described empirical evidence is at times insufficient to support the authors’ claims. Therefore, the authors should rewrite their analysis to better showcase their analysis and findings. For instance, I would like to see some excerpts from the analyzed legal verdicts to track the change of formulations over time.

Reviewer comments ‘major revisions’ example 2

I enjoyed reading this manuscript, and believe that it holds promise. At the same time, I identified several interconnected issues that require the authors’ attention before the manuscript can be considered for publication. First, the main argument needs to be worked out and formulated much more clearly. The main argument should be included in the paper’s introduction. Second, a clear argument will make it easier for the authors to highlight their main contribution to the existing academic literature, which is relatively vague right now. Furthermore, the discussion and conclusions are difficult to follow. I think that they need to be rewritten to better reflect the interesting research results and to highlight the authors’ key contributions.

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