A few weeks back I was thrilled to hear that Siobhan O’Dwyer who tweets @suwtues was running a DIY writing retreat. After fostering us through virtual shut up and write sessions on Tuesdays, she had decided to take on the DIY writing retreat as a way of getting some serious writing done, and she was kind enough to say that I’d given her some inspiration in making it happen. I travelled to Warrnambool to meet her during her retreat, where we talked about academia, books, writing, life and of course the DIY retreat. In a nice act of serendipity, a week after meeting her, and while she was on week 2 of her retreat, I got the reviews of the article back that I’d crafted during my own DIY stint. If you need or want a recap on my retreat you can find it in my older posts, but the general idea is that I locked myself away on the farm for 2 days with a target journal, a plan, some data and some food, and walked out 2 days later with an article drafted.
I sent my article to two lovely colleagues who gave me some suggestions and I made some changes before sending it in to the target journal. Four months passed and then the email arrived. Favourable reviews, some minor revisions to be made, but it’s looking likely that my DIY retreat article will be on its way to publication soon. I’ve targeted a multidisciplinary journal and had decided that I wanted to apply a tool from one professional field to my field of education to see how it worked. In doing so, it might give others the ability to apply a similar framework to their own work.
When tackling revisions I normally begin by rewriting what it is the reviewer is seeking clarification on, thus setting myself a to-do list for action. This morning, however, I tried something new having seen that Raul Pachecho-Vega had shared a great blog post on twitter. The post is from 2011 from Get a Life, PhD (http://getalifephd.blogspot.mx/2011/03/how-to-respond-to-revise-and-resubmit.html?utm_content=buffer20554&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer) and examines how to respond to revise and resubmit feedback. I really liked the suggestions in this post about putting together an excel spreadsheet with columns for reviewer, suggestions, response, done, and I used this as the beginning step of my revisions by identifying what exactly it was that the reviewers were seeking. In putting the suggestions into this document, I realized that the reviewers had similar feedback relating to clarification of terminology, something that is crucial in an international, multidisciplinary journal. It became the central focus of my revisions and involved adding more clarity around terms and moving these to earlier in the article so that readers had a base to work from. There are a number of steps in the blog post and I recommend checking it out when tackling your own revise and resubmit. One of the things I also liked was the way it made resubmission much easier. With my document clearly showing which reviewer had made which suggestions and my notes on how to address them, along with changed text, I was able to slot in my response to the reviewer feedback really easily in the online management system.
I think a process such as this is a really valuable one in enabling you to take feedback and process what it might mean for the paper, you can begin to build a sense of what the changed paper will look like and how it might hang together to give the reader a better understanding of your research. I find the table process also enables me to move beyond an emotional response to the feedback (what?! They didn’t love everything about my paper?), and instead to step outside my paper to see what readers find confusing or need clarification on.
One of the other things I have also started is a file that traces the kinds of feedback I get from reviewers on my papers so that I can begin to see common areas for improvement in my writing. In this paper the common element was terminology, in anther paper it was setting the international context more effectively. By creating a table that contains this kind of tracing of my writing I can be alert to these areas as I write to try and stop myself from falling into my own writing cracks. So with my paper revisions sent off and my file started, it’s time for a new paper, and a new DIY retreat project. Stay tuned and I’ll fill you in on that tomorrow!