• Guest Post Feature: How to Keep Up Momentum during the Revision Process

    Posted by Sarah Macfadyen, Scribendi Inc. on November 8, 2017

    Congratulations on completing the first draft of your academic article! Countless hours, and more than a few hundred cups of coffee, have led to this moment. After dotting the final i and crossing the final t, it’s tempting to jump into the process of submitting your article to a journal.

    You must resist this temptation.

    Instead, now is the time to turn your attention to one of the most crucial tasks in the publication process: revision.

    Now, admittedly, the revision process can be frustrating. It is long and arduous and will require you to create multiple drafts of your article before you publish a finished product.

    When writing an academic article, the revision process can be broken down into three main stages:

    1. A full edit prior to submission that covers both content and style
    2. A targeted, in-depth edit focusing on problematic areas identified by peer reviewers
    3. A thorough proofread for errors in grammar, spelling, typography, and consistency

    When embarking on such an extensive and often emotional process (criticism, even when it is constructive, can be hard to take), it’s challenging to keep up your momentum. The initial passion you felt for the project might be wearing thin under the enormity of the task before you.

    But whether you’re editing alone, with a colleague, or with a professional editor, there are some steps you can take to make the revision process less daunting, allowing you to power through these final stages and get your article published.

    The Pre-Submission Edit

    Before you even think about submitting your article to a journal, it’s vital to ensure that your writing is flawless. Journals receive hundreds of articles to fill a limited number of spots, which means that both your research and your writing need to stand out.

    Editing your article prior to submission not only makes it easier for the journal editor to do an initial assessment but also demonstrates that, as an author, you have put a lot of care into your work.

    At this stage, it’s crucial to have someone else—a qualified colleague or a professional editing service such as Scribendi—review the document to fix errors and make suggestions to improve your writing. This is because you are still too familiar with what you meant to write, and you might not be able to see what you actually did write.

    Here are the questions your editor must address at this stage of the editing process:

    • Do the sections of the article flow in a logical way?
    • Does the format adhere to the target journal’s conventions?
    • Are common transitional words or phrases overused?
    • Can your points be made more concisely? Is there too much repetition?
    • If there was more than one author, is the article now consistent in terms of style?
    • Are all the sources cited properly according to the style guide of your target journal?
    • Are there errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation?

    If you decide to complete this stage of the revision process yourself, it can be helpful to break it up into two rounds of editing: one focusing on content, in which you review the substance of your research and your writing style, and one focusing on mechanics, in which you review things like grammar and spelling.

    Once the edit is complete and you have implemented the necessary changes, it’s time to submit your article to the journal. If it makes it through the initial acceptance cycle, you’ll soon have more revisions to make when it comes back from peer review.

    The Post–Peer Review Edit

    On average (and this does vary from journal to journal), the peer review process takes three or four weeks. During this time, a journal editor reviews your article and sends it off to experts in your field for review.

    These experts evaluate the merit of your work and ensure your research is original, valid, and error free. They determine if the conclusions you have drawn make sense.

    When you receive your article back, you will likely find many suggested revisions that you'll need to address. Here’s how to approach that feedback:

    • Read all the comments carefully and take them seriously. Try not to get defensive; remember, this feedback is intended to help you make your article the best it can be.
    • If a reviewer found something unclear, revise or add to the section to more fully explain your point. This may involve rearranging your writing, restructuring your argument, and/or expanding on different points.
    • If you think the comment is unfair, at the very least that means the reader didn’t understand your point; consider how you can make your content clearer in the next draft with more data or specification.
    • Review the comments related to the quality of your writing. If the reviewer is concerned about the number of errors in the text, enlisting a professional editor to review it is a good idea.

    Rewriting is a long process, but it’s invaluable for improving the quality of your article.

    The Final Proofread

    After all the rewriting, it’s likely that you've inadvertently introduced new spelling and grammar mistakes, no matter how careful you've been. That’s why a final proofread is necessary.

    This proofreading stage is the last stage of the revision process and is often, thankfully, shorter than the previous ones. That does not, however, mean that it’s easier. The challenge now is catching errors hidden within your article—errors that, left unchecked, can discredit your research or make it unclear.

    Be sure to check for the following errors prior to returning your article to the journal:

    • Misspelled words
    • Variation in the style of English used (e.g., U.S. vs. U.K. English spellings)
    • Incorrect word choice (e.g., their instead of there)
    • Contractions (as these should be avoided in formal writing)
    • Sentence fragments
    • Misplaced modifiers
    • Incorrect semicolon use
    • Subject/verb disagreement (e.g., “the experiment are”)

    This is, obviously, not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea of what you or your editor need to look for in this stage of the revision process. Once you are confident that you have caught the errors in your writing, the article is ready to return to the journal.

    Although it’s easy to become discouraged and let your motivation dwindle during the revision process, remember that revision is just as critical to success as research and writing.