As a brief aside, if you have opened your email to find the dreaded ‘rejection’ response, don’t despair. Peer reviewed journals are very difficult to get published in and it doesn’t mean the end for your academic career! Take some time to feel upset, and when you can face it sit down with your supervisor and look through the feedback that you got. It could be the case that you have simply submitted your work to an inappropriate journal, in which case take some more time to think through where it fits, rework it according to the comments and have another shot. It might be the case that your work is immature, if so you know that in the future you will have more research and experience to work on. Take very good note of the reviewers comments and make sure to try to focus on the key issues that emerge from them in the next few months as you work. If reviewers think your work is fundamentally flawed, misdirected or unfeasible you can take the opportunity to re-think and discuss with supervisors how to move forward.
1 – keep meticulous records. The editor won’t thank you if they have to trawl back and forward through paperwork and emails to recall the article and the reviewer’s comments. As you work through the comments make a simple, clear chart. Note which reviewer made the comment, paraphrase the comment, overview what changes you have made to your paper and which page and paragraph they can be found. Salma Patel has made her own excellent copy of such a response chart available on her blog.
2 – Have a header that details your name, the paper title, the date, and the page number.
3 – If you disagree with comments from reviewers be very polite and explain why you have not made changes. There is every possibility the reviewer may see your notes so don’t offend them, and even if you don’t the editor will not be impressed by rude or aggressive responses.
4 – Don’t give up! Remember that many papers will go through three rounds of revise and resubmit. It can be frustrating but it is worth it to see a top quality paper that you can be proud of into the future enter the academic arena. However, as a PhD student your time is likely to be limited and pressured, it is reasonable to take some time to make changes to a paper and you may have to prioritise between editing and relation other tasks. Just remember, if you leave it a long time it is likely to be harder work as the material is less fresh in your memory.