Scientific letters

A health sciences researcher’s experience of manuscript review comments, 2020–2022

Gina Joubert
South African Family Practice | Vol 65, No 1 : Part 4| a5753 | DOI: | © 2023 Gina Joubert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 March 2023 | Published: 25 October 2023

About the author(s)

Gina Joubert, Department of Biostatistics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


Background: Peer review frequently improves a manuscript, but authors may consider some reviewer feedback negative, inappropriate or unclear. This study aims to summarise and analyse review comments received by authors.

Methods: This longitudinal study included all submissions of which the researcher was an author, reviewed by any journal during 2020–2022. First-round reviews were retrieved from emails and documents received by the authors or the faculty’s medical editors or the journal platforms. A confidential datasheet with review items compiled from literature and the researcher’s experience as author and reviewer was completed for each submission. Review comments were noted verbatim for subjective items such as rude or vague statements.

Results: The 65 submissions received 118 reviews from 36 journals, mainly in the form of unstructured narrative reports (59%). The majority of first-round reviews (58%), including those for rejected submissions, contained some positive comments. Reviewers frequently (75% of reviews, 88% of submissions) required some expansion of information. Vague and incorrect statements occurred in 15% and 18% of reviews, respectively. Only two reviews contained statements that could be considered rude. The types of comments made were associated with the review format.

Conclusion: The majority of reviews contained some positive comments and rude comments were extremely rare. Reviewers frequently requested the expansion of information provided.

Contribution: This study gives insight to authors, reviewers and editors regarding the type and tone of review comments. This could guide authors during manuscript preparation and authors, reviewers and editors during the review process.


review comments; manuscript review; publication; peer review; review feedback; experience; health sciences.


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